Norway’s Shelby Vaughn has been a hallmark of her prep career to date and has made nothing short of a difference. In the fall of 2021, as a sophomore, she proved she’s the most electrifying player in the region.
So it came as no surprise that Vaughn led her U-17 side North FC to the NPL National Tournament in Colorado. Winning the Great Lakes Alliance Region qualified North FC for the tournament, and after making the journey west, Vaughn made sure they didn’t go home empty-handed by winning the NPL National Championship.
After qualifying for the NPL National Championship with a 3-2 win over California’s Spartan FC Yucaipa, they faced the Blue Knights of Utah. In the eighth minute of the game, Vaughn took a cross off her thigh and one she put into the net in what turned out to be the only result of the game.
“We’d been driving back and forth in the first half and then my teammate Lydia Case was driving towards the outside of the box,” Vaughn said. “That drew three defenders towards her and left me wide open in the middle of the box. She slipped the ball between all three defenders and it caught my foot for a one-touch finish on the side of the net.”
What was going through her mind at that moment, it was all about seizing the opportunity.
“All I thought was, ‘This could be your last chance and you need to capitalize on it,'” Vaughn said.
“She had a lot of chances,” said North FC coach Joe Jovanovski, who was her head coach in Colorado but is normally an assistant coach at North FC, when asked about Vaughn’s shot. “And to think that she hit like that.”
Even more important was the impact Vaughn’s goal had, as it allowed her club to play more freely and relaxed. Instead of chasing a goal, she and her teammates were able to relax and play the game they knew.
“It was really good for us that Shelby scored in the eighth minute,” Jovanovski said. “All the pressure was off us and we still had that player who can change the game.”
North FC kept the Blue Knights off the board until the end of the game and secured their first-ever national championship with a 1-0 win.
“Winning a national championship has been one of my goals since the beginning of our season,” said Vaughn. “It feels great to know that all the hard work, travel to training and extra training paid off in the end. It really means everything to me and my team, we put everything on the field no matter how tough it was and we all came together.”
For Jovanovski, everything only became clear towards the end.
“It hit me on the flight home,” he said. “I’m really happy for the kids, they were so excited when we scored that goal and the girls and the parents were crazy. The US club did a great job with the presentation and it was really a cool experience for these kids.”
That win-it-all thrill capped off a terrific summer season for Vaughn and her club, North FC. Her growth over the summer and at the tournament earned her the praise of her coach.
“She just lets the game come to her,” said Jovanovski, “she will continue to flourish as a player going forward. Their ability to take on defenders, get around corners and their will to win is incredible.”
Her North FC manager Atilla Csiszar gushed about her development and how rare a player Vaughn is.
“I’ve never seen a better scorer than Shelby,” he said. “Right now, in this game, their ability to move the ball well, take on players and get that ball in goal is incredible. She has that carefree attitude, the will to end games, that killer instinct and she can break the line and end.
“Not many players can do that,” added Csiszar. “Her ability to thread the needle and finish the game – you have to have a certain mentality and she has it. She has ice in her veins.”
With a focus now shifting to the high school scene, where Vaughn will be getting fit for her Bobcats, she’ll be looking to carry the momentum into this season. With the lessons she learned from the club, she will try to use them as she pursues more goals.
“Winning a national championship is great,” said Vaughn. “But I know I still have goals I want to achieve for my high school season.”
Her trainer Csiszar doesn’t think this will be a problem as she tries to keep growing her wings in the prep scene. Having already established herself as the best returnee in the region, she will look to continue improving her game and ticking goals off her list.
“She’ll order multiple players to cover her with Mann, giving other players opportunities,” he said. “I think winning the national championship will encourage them to go for goal. She’s a special player, she’s fun, she’s creative, she can always score and she’s emotionally involved in this game. She wants to win, gets angry when she doesn’t and that willpower is huge.”