For Penn State University senior Maya Hayes, scoring is second nature.
A native of West Orange, N.J., Hayes spent her high school years at Newark Academy in Livingston, N.J., where she played both varsity soccer and varsity basketball for four years.
A three-time first team All-Conference selection in soccer and a two-time first team All-Conference selection in basketball, Hayes put in 92 goals for the Minutemen, 38 of which were scored during her senior season.
Varsity coach Jay Torson commented on the three-time Conference MVP’s ability to dictate games through her tactical awareness.
“[Maya] has an incredible understanding of the game,” Torson said. “If there is a person in a better spot, she’ll pass the ball.”
When she was 15, Hayes met Penn State women’s soccer head coach Erica Walsh. Walsh, named 2012 NSCAA National Coach of the Year in early 2013, became instantly impressed with Hayes’ maturity, while Hayes was equally impressed with the Penn State soccer community.
“Every single time I came to visit [Penn State], it felt like a team… it felt like a family,” Hayes said. “I wanted to be part of a program that could grow and become something even bigger than what it already was.”
Under Walsh, Hayes became a Nittany Lion phenomenon, scoring 71 goals in four seasons.
While scoring that many goals is an impressive feat for any collegiate player, it’s Hayes’ sophomore season that people are still talking about.
Starting in all 26 games, Hayes led the nation in both goals (31) and points (70). Add eight assists and nine game-winning goals to that and you have Hayes’ first Hermann Trophy nomination.
Losing out to Stanford’s Teresa Noyola, Hayes became the first Penn State finalist since 2005, when Portland Thorns FC’s Tiffany Weimer was up for the award.
Hayes’ talent has even brought her to the international level, where she was most-notably a member of the 2012 FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup champion team.
In the United States’ six games, Hayes found the back of the net four times—the highest of any American player. In fact, in the United States’ opening match (against Ghana), Hayes recorded a hat trick, helping the Americans begin the tournament with a striking 4-0 win.
“We have a lot of forwards that are explosive, but certainly Maya is as explosive as they get,” U-20 head coach Steve Swanson said following the match. “I think she did a really good job of setting up her runs and she finished some really good goals.”
After having much experience at the U-20 level, Hayes recently received her first call-up to the U-23 team during a December training camp in Sunrise, Fla., where she was reunited with former Penn State teammate—and newly-acquired Washington Spirit midfielder—Christine Nairn.
Hayes’ next step will be the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), where many are placing her as an early first-round draft pick in next Friday’s second-ever NWSL College Draft.