True freshman makes impact for Lions soccer

True freshman midfielder Shelby Wall during a game against Delta State Oct. 12 in Florence. Wall came to the Lions after a stellar high school career at Auburn High School where she was the class 7A Player of the Year last year.

With the graduation of Chloe Richards, the UNA soccer team had some familiar faces taking over the forward positions, but needed that one missing puzzle piece.

Enter Shelby Wall.

Wall, the true freshman forward from Auburn, Alabama, joins returning seniors Stacey Webber and Ele Costello, sophomore Kylie Huey and redshirt freshman Audrey Tanner in the frontline. Wall is one of eight incoming freshman in 2016 and one that has made an impact early, said UNA coach Chris Walker.

“I think it took her a few weeks to get used to the speed of the game and the fitness required at this level,” Walker said. “But she’s getting better and stronger with every practice and every game. She’ll be a big factor not only for the rest of this season, but for the next three years.”

Wall came to UNA as the reigning Class 7A Player of the Year in Alabama, leading Auburn high school to two straight state semifinals. Wall was also a first-team all-state selection in 2015 and 2016.

But not all of her success came from scoring goals, she said.

Before her senior season in high school, Wall played midfielder throughout her career. When her high school coach saw an opportunity to make some lineup changes and move her to forward, Wall said she was unsure.

“I had never really played forward before, but I guess it worked out,” Wall said. “I don’t think (Walker) ever saw me play forward until my state tournament.”

Wall said the move occurred in the sixth game of her senior season, as she swapped positions with a teammate as an experiment.

“It wasn’t that the other forwards couldn’t finish,” Wall said. “The girl that had been playing forward had dropped back into mid, and we just played really well together. She was able to get me into chances that I don’t know if I would have been able to get her into. It was a lot of team effort.”

Wall was a late signee for the Lions, but she said she always knew UNA was the best fit.

“I really like the campus and the atmosphere, and the coaches are great,” Wall said. “I had went to some other schools just looking around, but I went and didn’t really like it. But when I came here I was like, ‘I could really see myself playing here.’”

Wall played sparingly through the first few games, but earned her first start against Shorter Sept. 14. She had three shots and two shots on goal, but could not find the back of the net.

Wall’s first goal came in the closing moments of a conference match against Alabama-Huntsville, where she scored the game-winner in a 2-1 victory over UNA’s closest rival.

Wall has three goals and two assists on the season, with two of her goals coming from UNA’s 10-1 rout of Spring Hill College Sept. 28. Wall also set up two goals in the game.

“I think that (first goal) got her confidence up,” Walker said. “She was fantastic at Spring Hill. She’ll compete and continue to see the field a lot the rest of the season.”

Although some like to compare Wall’s goal-scoring ability to other great scorers, junior midfielder Beatriz Fernandes thinks people should view Wall for her own abilities.

“I think Shelby needs to be seen as Shelby and not the girl after Chloe (Richards),” Fernandes said. “She can make her own legacy if she wants to. She has the potential, and she has the will.”

Wall and the Lions return home against Mississippi College Oct. 16 at the Bill Jones Athletic Complex.