When North Alabama women’s soccer player Shelby Wall first stepped on campus as a freshman in 2016, she was a young player just looking for her opportunity to learn as a player and increase her self-confidence in her ability to play on a college level. Fast-forward to 2019, and the senior has turned herself into an all-time player at UNA.
The 5-7 midfielder out of Auburn spent her prep years playing soccer for Auburn High School. She was a first team all-state player for Class 7A in 2015 and 2016 before taking home class 7A State Player of the Year as a senior in high school. She then moved to the college level where she has played all four years at UNA. During her first two years on campus, she received a solid amount of playing time, but she quickly learned some valuable lessons as a young player.
“I think freshman year was seeing the speed of play and conditioning levels that were required to play,” Wall said. “Going into the spring (2016), that is a really big time to develop as a freshman because you really work on your fitness and learning the speed of play.”
During that year, Wall played in 14 matches and started seven as a freshman. She scored three goals, with five assists and 11 total points.
Though she enjoyed a strong season on-the-field and a developmental route off, her sophomore year brought up something that needed attention: her confidence.
“Sophomore year was more about working on my individual confidence and believing that I was capable of playing with my teammates and against the other teams,” Wall said.
“It was just learning to have the confidence and that you can do this (playing soccer).
The University of North Alabama made the official start of their transition to Division I play during Wall’s junior year in 2017. The Lions finished the season 11-9-1 and went 3-4-1 in conference play before going on a strong Atlantic Sun postseason tournament run that ended in a loss to reigning champion Lipscomb.
That season saw them play several Division I schools, including in-state rivals Alabama A&M, Alabama State, and Jacksonville State, UAB and Troy. The Lions currently sit 4-5 and will start conference play on Sept. 26, and the competition has not let up this year, as the team has faced Ole Miss and all of the above mentioned teams outside of UAB.
Wall said that playing those bigger schools has helped the team develop their overall confidence and grow as a unit.
“The bigger schools just have so much depth on their teams,” Wall said. “We have a lot of depth too, but it’s just having the confidence to play going forward. For those teams like Ole Miss, yeah they have a name that they are an SEC school but it’s still not much of a difference. It’s just having that confidence we can compete with whoever.”
This season the Lions have had two long stretches in which they went through rough patches. The team didn’t get its first win until Aug. 25, losing one game against Ole Miss and tying two prior to its first victory. The next stretch came between Sept. 6 and Sept. 13 when they lost three very close games.
Though the games were close, Wall felt that she grew more as a leader and the team grew closer.
“I think the start of the season we went through a lot,” Wall said. “A lot was thrown at us. We lost two players to injuries before the third game of the season. It really helped our team grow together and depend on each other more. We also learned that we need to stick with it and finish out games and play the full 90 minutes.”
Injuries have played a big part in some of the Lions early downfalls. One of the key injuries came earlier when senior goalkeeper Savannah Stewart’s season ended due to her injury. Since then, freshman goalkeeper Jordan Spreck has transitioned to the starting spot for the Lions.
With conference play soon kicking off, the Lions hope for better season results. Wall hopes that the first game will push them into a strong performance in conference the rest of the season.
“If we come out with a good result in this first game, it will continue to give us confidence in the conference season,” Wall said. “It will help us calm down and relax because it is a lot of nerves going around because it is conference play and it really matters since we can’t go into NCAA postseason. I think if we just pull out a good result it will calm us the rest of the season.”
As an individual, Wall sits among some of the all-time players to play at UNA. She is seventh in career goals at UNA with 31 and is sixth all-time in assists with 23.
Wall hasn’t really thought much about her individual success, but she realizes that her production on the field is a crucial part to the team’s success.
“I haven’t really thought much of it, but I just try to do my part,” Wall said. “I’m a forward so my main goal is to score goals, so I just try to go out and score as many goals as I can. If I can get higher up on those lists that would be great.”
Wall built her relationship with head coach Chris Walker starting the second they were on campus together. She also credited him for her development as a player.
“[Walker] always told me to believe in myself and to believe in my skills,” Wall said. “He tells that to almost everybody on the team because he believes that if each of us are doing are jobs, then collectively as a whole we will succeed.”
To many people’s surprise, Wall only had an interest in playing college soccer early on in high school and leading up to her time before committing to UNA, she doubted the idea of playing college soccer. Her confidence was nowhere near the level that it is now. The soon-to-graduate Wall is a secondary education major with a concentration in social science. She hopes to be a teacher and coach soccer at some level in the near future.
One thing is for certain that Wall has left her mark at UNA and she now has the confidence to take on anything she chooses