It's been quite a journey lately for Bella Bixby, who was listed as the Portland Thorns' third string goalkeeper heading into this season.
However, the former Oregon State soccer goalkeeper made her Thorns debut as starting goalkeeper in Portland's first game of the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup in Utah on June 27.
In her first start, Bixby made four saves against the North Carolina Courage. However, the Thorns lost 2-1.
The 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup tournament kicked off on June 27 at Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman, Utah. Due to the ongoing global pandemic no spectators have been or will be in attendance.
Bixby has been training and playing with the Thorns in Utah, but she also recently caught up with our Justin Meyers on The Bridge Podcast.
She shared her thoughts on playing games in front of zero fans. The Oregon State product has found that playing in an empty stadium has been "jarring" but it does also help her and her teammates communicate a lot better.
It was definitely a little jarring to walk into an empty stadium, certainly. Being on the sidelines and seeing, and growing up with Portland's crowd at Providence Park is 25,000 people – it's pretty loud and crazy and wonderful. It was a little jarring [in an empty stadium], but it also came with a lot of benefits. I was able to communicate with my teammates without any outside distractions. -- Thorns goalkeeper Bella Bixby on The Bridge Podcast
[Listen to the latest Bridge Podcast with Justin Myers and Bella Bixby].
Bixby played in 72 games at Oregon State, getting 18 clean sheets. She also set a university record for most career saves with 394.
The Thorns selected her in the 3rd round of the 2018 NWSL College Draft.
Portland (0-3-1) is still looking for its first win after playing in five matches thus far in the Challenge Cup tournament.
"As far as me and my back line, I feel like we've been getting better every game," Bixby said on The Bridge Podcast. "We've been making adjustments. We'll continue to make adjustments, but the preparation going into these games hasn't changed. It's just about it coming together on the field right now."
Next up, the Thorns will face the North Carolina Courage Friday, July 17 at 9:30a.m. Pacific Time in the NWSL Challenge Cup Quarterfinals.