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The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Soccer’s Gianna Paul knew Alabama was where she ‘belonged’

CW / Riley Thompson
Alabama forward Gianna Paul (#14) controls the ball against Auburn.

Alabama soccer forward Gianna Paul was destined for success from a young age. 

Hailing from Huntington Station, New York, just 40 miles outside of the city, Paul was named to the All-Long Island team her senior year in addition to being an All-American track star. 

The 5-foot-10-inch forward naturally had many potential schools, but head coach Wes Hart ultimately won out in the recruiting battle. 

“I literally just had a gut feeling that this is where I belonged,” Paul said of Tuscaloosa. “I’m very big on just like going with my heart. And I literally knew I belonged here.” 

Hart and the rest of the team were ecstatic upon landing Paul. 

In a press release following Paul’s commitment, Hart described her as “a fast, dynamic forward that will be able to stress SEC defenses with her incredible pace and ability to score goals.” 

Not even Hart could have predicted just how dominant Paul would be. 

“My very first game I think I had two assists versus FAU,” Paul recalled. “As soon as I did that I was like, ‘OK, this could be a very good year for me.’ And then I think my first goal was against Clemson, and it was like four or five games this season. And that’s just what I needed. I think to like, prove to myself I could do it, but I think I always knew it’s been my goal since day one. So I think I just needed that first goal and then I think since then I’ve been good.” 

Paul was more than good. During her freshman season, she scored seven goals to go along with four assists and was a shoo-in for SEC Freshman of the Year while also earning a spot on the 2022 All-SEC second team. 

The freshman also had a penchant for the big moments, scoring a critical goal in the Elite Eight against Duke to push the Crimson Tide into the College Cup. 

Paul picked up right where she left off this year, scoring seven goals in the first 10 games of the season. Coming into Alabama’s Sept. 21 battle with Arkansas, Paul led the conference in goals, and SEC Forward of the Year was very much a possibility for the sophomore. 

However, Paul went down with an ankle injury in the 5-0 loss to the Razorbacks, and then reaggravated it days later against Vanderbilt. 

Paul proceeded to score just one goal in the Crimson Tide’s final 11 games, in a 3-1 loss to Texas A&M in College Station. 

To her credit, she does not blame injuries at all for this, but it is hard to ignore her health. 

Paul went down again in the SEC quarterfinal loss to Mississippi State and was unable to play in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. 

While she did return for the Crimson Tide’s last game of the season, a second-round NCAA tournament loss to North Carolina, and did fire off a shot, Paul was once again unable to find the back of the net. 

Nobody has been more disappointed in this than Paul herself. 

“I don’t think I’ve ever been more frustrated at myself,” Paul said. “I think I am my harshest critic. I think when it comes to me scoring, my goal is always to get one in the back of the net. And when I don’t do that, sometimes I just get very frustrated at myself.” 

Soccer is a complicated sport. It is called “the beautiful game” for a reason. The act of scoring a goal is difficult, and there are layers to each goal that most fans never even register. 

That is where Paul has truly shined. 

“It’s unfortunate for her and her team that she hasn’t found the back of the net,” Hart said. “But it certainly doesn’t mean she hasn’t been playing well. She draws so much attention from the opposition, a lot of times she draws two or three defenders on her, which is opening other players up.” 

As a 2022 recruit, Paul is a part of the first recruiting class since 2017 that was not given an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA. 

While college athletes all across the country, including some of Paul’s own teammates, all got to take advantage of a fifth year of college eligibility, Paul has only four. 

Having just completed her second season, Paul is aware that the clock is ticking on her time in Tuscaloosa. 

“I think, team-wise, it would be great to win a national title, as outlandish as that sounds,” Paul said. “I think personally, I think my immediate goal right now, especially for next year and my senior year are to win an offensive player the year. I think that’s not too out of reach for me and every game that I go along I’m just thinking about that.” 

As for after Tuscaloosa, there is no doubt in Paul’s mind of what she wants to do. 

“The sport of soccer, in my brain, is the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do,” Paul said. “I don’t really have any career goals besides playing soccer. As soon as my time at Bama ends, my goal is to go pro. That’s all I’ve ever known, that’s all I really want to do.” 

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