WASHINGTON TERRACE — Hailey Price was somewhere around 13 or 14 years old and had been playing the defender position in soccer for several years when she started to feel very differently about it.
"Absolutely hated it. I wanted to play forward, I wanted to play midfield, I was tired of trying to get the ball to the forwards and they weren't scoring and so I wanted to take the lead," said Price, a senior defender on Bonneville High's soccer team.
Then her club coach had a chat with her. The coach, Lyman Houston, told Price that she was the team's best defender and that she was probably going to play soccer in college as a defender.
"From that point forward I kind of just accepted it and then I just learned to embrace defense, and now I love it," Price said.
There's something satisfying about stopping an opponent's attack dead in its tracks. Price is at the center of just about every stalled opposing attack, whether it's with her head or her feet.
Particularly, Price loves chasing an attacking player down from 50 yards away, slide tackling said attacking player and getting the ball back. And she's become pretty good at that.
"With Hailey, her bad games are better than a lot of girls' best games that we play. Finding a defender who's that strong is like finding a diamond in the rough," Bonneville coach Gavin Garside said.
For the past three seasons and change, Price has been anchoring (no pun intended) the Lakers' defense.
She and fellow central defender Bree Pedersen have been big reasons why Bonneville has allowed just 16 goals in 16 matches this year after allowing just 10 last year and 28 (in 20 matches) the year before.
Unlike many central defenders, Price also has a knack for scoring goals that would make her 13-year-old self happy. She has four goals and four assists this year.
Price can probably kick a ball the farthest of anyone on the team, so a free kick from midfield is in perfect range for her to create a scoring chance for a teammate.
Otherwise, she's in the penalty box looking to get her head on a cross and score.
"I'm always hungry for a goal, but if it's an assist then I'm more than happy to do that," Price said.
Her former club coach's comments about her playing soccer in college were prophetic.
In February, Price verbally committed to play soccer at Weber State for coach Tim Crompton. It was somewhat abrupt.
"I was never really considering Weber State and then my comp coach texted me one Saturday night and said, 'Hey, tomorrow Weber State is doing this pop-up camp and I want you to go to it,'" Price said.
Crompton reached out to Price after the camp and told her he wanted her to play at WSU.
Three months later, Crompton became the interim athletic director at WSU, which was weird at first for Price since it was Crompton who solely recruited here. Since then, Price has met the rest of the WSU coaches and says she still plans to play at Weber State.
Price wound up starting at defender for Bonneville a few games into her freshman season, then her season ended after surgery on a dislocated left knee cap and some other ligament/tendon damage.
Once she got back on the field her sophomore year, she started at center back and has been there ever since.
Price was just one of two returning starters coming into this season, which she says was a big step up in responsibility. Garside says Price handled it very well.
"She's extremely vocal, so everyone around her is more organized because of that. She's not scared to go in for a ball with her head or her body," Garside said.
The rest of the Lakers starters are mostly sophomores and freshmen who didn't start last year. Bonneville has jelled well enough to go 12-4 in the regular season.
In past years, the team would have one team sleepover to help everyone get to know each other. This year is the first year since Price has been on the team that there's been multiple sleepovers.
"In the past we've all kind of played together for the majority of our years, where this year it's kind of like everyone's new, thrown together so it's made us focus more on team unity," Price said.
The Lakers are seeded sixth in the upcoming 5A state playoffs with a first-round home playoff game against Spanish Fork at 4 p.m. Thursday.
Bonneville finds itself in a different position heading into the postseason than years past. The Lakers won the region title each of the past three years, but all of those seasons ended without a state championship.
"Every year that I've been here, we've won region so for us not to win region this year was a little bite in the butt," Price said. "But it just motivates us more."