Lehigh women’s soccer graduate student Ryelle Shuey has established herself as a defensive force this season.
Shuey was awarded Patriot League Defensive Player of the Week for the second time this season following her performance in Lehigh’s win against St. John’s on Saturday, Sept. 9. As she begins her final season at Lehigh, she will play a crucial role as a captain and center-back for the Mountain Hawks.
She played as a midfielder for her first three seasons, but when the team was plagued with injuries and needed to fill the center-back role, Shuey stepped up.
“It was almost a natural position for her,” assistant coach Gina Lewandowski said. “She has a lot of great qualities and skills that we needed in a center-back.”
Shuey said while she spent most of her Lehigh career playing in the midfield, she had played center-back as a child.
Shuey’s soccer career started when she was 4 years old, playing for a recreational team coached by her father.
Once Shuey started playing soccer more competitively in middle and high school, she said she became much more attack-minded, which is when she started to play midfield.
But her heart remained back on defense.
“I always had defensive principles and a defensive mindset,” Shuey said.
During her time at Lehigh, Shuey said just like her position changed, so did her career aspirations.
Originally, she studied biology with the goal of attending physical therapy school after graduation. However, she said difficult classes in her junior year prompted discussions of a career path change with her former head coach Eric Lambinus.
Shuey said she has COVID eligibility through NCAA, which allows an extra year of playtime for those affected during the 2020-2021 athletic season. But, she wasn’t sure if she wanted to use this extra time.
“I (also) wasn’t really sure if I wanted to do physical therapy anymore,” Shuey said. “I talked to (Lambinus) and he kind of spearheaded the thought of going to the College of Education here.”
Now, Shuey said she is pursuing a master’s degree in secondary education with the hopes of becoming a biology teacher at the middle or high school level.
“It kind of was just an added bonus that I get a grad year playing soccer with some of my best friends under a great coaching staff, a great athletic department and a great university,” Shuey said.
Along with being a defensive powerhouse for the Mountain Hawks, teammate Violette Bonvallet said Shuey brings experience and leadership to the squad.
Bonvallet, who has been a teammate of Shuey’s for four years, said Shuey is the best leader on the team and her four years of experience has been influential in establishing a culture of hard work.
“We all kind of joke that she is the team mom,” Bonvallet said. “If you ever need anything, you go to Rye about it.”
Lewandowski also thinks highly of Shuey’s natural-born leadership. She said the way Shuey carries herself, speaks to her teammates and cares about her team stands out.
She said Shuey is a great model of the team’s habits, behavior and what it means to be a student-athlete at Lehigh.
“I think she has a really bright future,” Lewandowski said. “Whatever she decides to undertake, whether it is to keep playing or continue to grind at her graduate program and shift into a new career, I think she has a very bright future ahead.”
Shuey and her team of Mountain Hawks will take on Navy on Sept. 15 at 7 p.m. in Annapolis, Maryland.