Shelby Kuni, a 20-year-old superstar forward for the University of Tampa, wondered if she would ever play soccer again after she suffered multiple stress fractures in her back that prohibited her from playing her freshman year of high school.
The 5-foot-9-inch junior wondered if she would ever play soccer again knowing that the fractures in her L5 vertebra would keep her out of her freshman season. Instead of giving up hope, Kuni was determined to get back on the field and continue her soccer dominance.
The Houston, Texas native worked extremely hard to return for her sophomore year and the hard work paid off. During her sophomore season, Kuni tallied 35 goals and 11 assists. The communication/writing major continued her tear for Memorial High School tallying 36 goals and seven assists during her junior season and recorded 37 goals and nine assists during her senior season. Kuni finished her high school career with the record for most goals in a season, 37, and most career goals with 108, even while missing her entire freshman season. In addition to Kuni’s records, she was named MVP of the team and conference.
During the summer of 2003, Kuni attended a soccer training camp in Ft. Lauderdale, where former UT coach Bobby Johnston immediately realized her potential.
When Kuni decided to commit to the UT she said, “It was more comforting knowing that there were three of my friends from my club soccer team that enjoyed the University of Tampa.”
The Memorial High School MVP, Kuni wasted no time in showing her new teammates what she can do on the field. Kuni played in 17 of the team’s games, starting in 12 of them. She started her college scoring against Columbus State, adding two goals and an assist on five shots. Kuni recorded her first career hat trick against Central Arkansas and also added three assists during that game.
Even with Kuni being a freshman, she still managed to lead the team in scoring with 13 goals. She was named to the Sunshine State Conference First Team and was also named the Sunshine State Conference Offensive Player of the Week. Kuni was also named the Sunshine State Conference Freshman of the Year during the 2005 season.
The award-winning forward continued sniping opposing goalies at a much higher rate during her sophomore season, tallying 26 goals, which broke the previous single season record for goals at Tampa of 21. Not only did she endure a productive season for Tampa, but she was seventh in the nation in scoring with 58 points. Kuni was named to the Sunshine State Conference First Team and Offensive Player of the Year. She was also named to the National Soccer Coaches Association of America All-American team as well as Daktronics First Team All-American team.
When Kuni isn’t on the soccer field, she can be found hanging out with her friends, taking pictures or in the art studio painting. The all-state soccer player finds painting to be a relaxing activity and a pleasant getaway from soccer.
Even though Kuni idolizes France’s captain Thierry Henry for his passion of the game and simple play, her number one idol is her father Doug. She has been wearing number 31 since she was 5-years-old because that was her father’s old football number.
Many may think that Kuni’s love in life is soccer but her true love in life is her family. “I am one of the luckiest people in the world. I have a cookie cutter family and I am extremely thankful for that.”