Charlotte women's soccer graduate student Haley Shand has spent five years representing the 49ers. She reflects on her tenure with the squad as she prepares to leave the program.
From an early age, The Wilmington, N.C. native knew she belonged on the pitch and even quit other sports to focus purely on soccer.
"I started playing soccer when I was three years old and haven't stopped playing since then," said Shand. "I've played a couple of other sports, but soccer was special to me. I ended up quitting all other sports and just focused on soccer."
Shand has had a surplus of individuals guiding her throughout her journey, but one that stands out is her father, who pushed her from a young age.
"My dad has been a big mentor and motivator for me. He's always pushing me outside my comfort zone and encouraging me," said Shand. "He's very driven and passionate, and I aspire to be like him."
Shand was recruited by multiple universities but landed at Charlotte due to the welcoming atmosphere she experienced from players and coaches.
"Charlotte stood out to me because I really enjoyed the coaches and the girls were so welcoming when I came to campus. It just felt like home," said Shand.
During her tenure with the team, she played in 66 games, starting in 20 of them. She recorded 11 goals, six coming from the team's 2022 campaign, one assist and 23 points.
Looking at the stat sheets, Shand said she improved her game year after year.
"Over the years, I got more confident," said Shand. "I learned more about soccer, field awareness and the style of play here (Charlotte). I think I was able to grow into having a more significant role."
The willingness to learn has been a critical component for Shand throughout her career, helping her progress as a player. As a freshman, Shand says she didn't have any expectations for herself, but shadowing older, more experienced players allowed her to step into a more prominent role on the team.
"I knew this was a high-level, and I was coming to play with some really great players that had made a significant impact," said Shand. "I understood my role was to push those players, but I wanted to learn and grow from them and hopefully step into a more significant role as I got older."
Teammates have also inspired Shand as they have helped her advance her game while keeping a friendly, competitive fire present. One person in particular – teammate Kelly Hastings.
"One of the people I've become closest with on the team is Kelly Hastings," said Shand. "She is passionate about soccer, and she is someone I can always look to go out to the fields with and push each other."
Sophomore teammate, Macey Bader, was named to the C-USA Championship All-Tournament team with Shand. Bader said Shand was instrumental in her decision to play at Charlotte and was a role model.
"I met Haley [Shand] when I visited in my junior year of high school. I knew she was somebody I would look up to," said Bader. "She has been a positive role model and always has a smile on her face. She is going to push through for her team."
As new and up-and-coming players enter the program, Shand said they need to find a support system while embarking on their collegiate journeys.
"Find those people that are going to be there for you, that support you and want what's best for you," said Shand. "You're going to have injuries, along with other problems. Communicating with others and leaning on each other is so important."
As Shand bids farewell to the program she has spent the past five years with, she said her legacy is being there for her teammates.
"Being a part of this team is so special, but being a good teammate and being there for them is so important," said Shand. "While you're here, you have your ups and downs. You have good and bad days, but being there for your teammates is important."
Shand played her final game for the 49ers on Nov. 4, against Florida Atlantic University (FAU), where she scored the team's lone goal. Charlotte rounded out the season with a 2-1 defeat in the C-USA semifinals finishing the season with a record of 4-11-1 and were 2-6-2 in C-USA play.