Beyond the saves: CPP goalie Bella Hara excels in new home

By William Jack, Nov. 21, 2023

For the second time this season, Cal Poly Pomona women’s soccer goalkeeper Bella Hara won California Collegiate Athletic Association Defensive Player of the Week.

Hara’s journey to winning the award, this time for the week of Oct. 30 through Nov. 5, is a remarkable achievement that she credits to her team.

The achievement is not only evidence of her exceptional skills on the field for CPP but also serves as a testament to her long journey.

“I started off as a forward when I was 11,” said Hara. “I started a lot later than all of my friends who started playing soccer when they were 3.”

She said this late start made her underperform in her role as an outfielder early in her career. However, during a recreational league tournament where her team found themselves without a goalkeeper, Hara volunteered to fill in. Little did she know this decision would set her on a path to becoming a standout goalie.

Hara, who was a gymnast prior to playing soccer, attributes her success as a goalkeeper to her agility and jumping abilities. Her parents, recognizing her potential, invested in her training, propelling her from club to club in San Diego.

“She stuck me in every sport trying to see which one I liked,” Hara said of her mother. “She definitely put in work and took me to all the practices and paid all the money that was needed for me to succeed and play at the level I’m at now.”

While attending St. Michael’s School in Poway, California, from kindergarten to eighth grade, Hara explored various organized sports, including volleyball, basketball and track. Outside of school, she pursued gymnastics and skating.

Her collegiate journey began at Azusa Pacific University. Seeking a new program, environment and style of play, she transferred to CPP in December 2022.

“I was looking at all the schools in the CCAA,” said Hara. “But ultimately, it came down to the coaching staff, the style of play and the type of girls that were on the team that ultimately brought me here.

Jay Mason, the head coach of CPP’s women’s soccer team, was also a goalkeeper in college. He became a pivotal figure in Hara’s development as his expertise in goalkeeping provided her with the guidance needed to excel on the field.

“At my previous school, there weren’t a lot of people in the position on the staff that knew about goalkeeping,” said Hara. “It’s just comforting knowing that the person making decisions, the person running our program, knows so much more about goalkeeping,”

Beyond the soccer field, Hara talked about her love for San Diego, her family and her faith. She enjoys spending time by the ocean and cherishes moments with her family and friends.

“I’m from San Diego, so I adore the beach,” said Hara. “I enjoy it all the time. I love my family, my friends, and I love going to church.”

Reflecting on the significance of winning CCAA Defensive Player of the Week, Hara was simply happy all her hard work paid off.

“This award meant a lot to me because my confidence was very low last fall in my last season at APU,” said Hara. “So, I feel like all of my work for the past year has finally come to fruition.”

With an emphasis on the collective effort of the team, Hara modestly mentioned her low save count during the season, attributing it to the outstanding defensive performance of her teammates.

“I didn’t have a lot of saves this entire season,” said Hara. “I didn’t have to do a lot, and that’s just a credit to Liberty (Ortiz) and Bella Anderson. They protected me in a lot of ways and made my life a lot easier.”

Though her season ultimately ended in a loss in the CCAA Tournament grand final against the Cal State San Marcos Cougars Nov. 12, this Bronco team managed many achievements throughout the year, including winning the regular season. Hara said that while she was disappointed in the result, she could not be prouder of her teammates and the resiliency they showed during the season.

Feature image courtesy of CPP Athletics

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