10 Questions with Penn State Soccer’s Maya Hayes
Penn State Women’s Soccer has a potential All-American in forward Maya Hayes, who is lighting up the Big Ten this year. Hayes is currently leading the nation in goals and helping propel the Nittany Lions to first place in conference standings. I was able to catch up with Maya for a mid-season chat about soccer and life.
Onward State: Penn State is having a great season with a national ranking and a large lead in the Big Ten standings. What are the team’s goals for the rest of the season and into postseason play?
Maya Hayes: As of right now we like where we are, but we know that we can’t be satisfied because from here on out the teams continue to get better and tougher to play against. We would like to just remain consistent and continue to get better. Our ultimate goals are to win the Big Ten and win a National Championship, but we know that doesn’t come without continuing to work hard in practice and making each other better each day.
OS: Aside from the team’s success, as of this interview you lead the country in goals with 18. How important is that accolade to you personally?
MH: It’s always great to receive recognition for scoring goals, but at the end of the day I’m only doing what my team and coaches expect of me. I’m going to do whatever I can to contribute to the team and make the team better.
OS: The “Park Avenue Army” student section has sprung up this season, complete with a full dressed colonel. Can you describe what the new student support means to the team?
MH: We love it! It’s great to finally have that support from fellow students and to feel that energy from them when we are out there on the field. It’s always tough to play a good team and have their fans yelling and chanting on the sidelines the entire game, so we definitely appreciate their support 100% and we’re happy that the student section finally fell into place for us since it’s something we’ve been looking forward to.
OS: Last season, you finished with 5 goals. You have already nearly quadrupled that total. What have you improved on from last season to be so successful?
MH: This season I’ve made it a great focus to improve on my movement off the ball and to always be an option for my teammates when they are on the ball. I’ve made it my mission to lose my defender in the final third as well as on crosses when our wide mids are getting endline or putting a service in.
OS: Judging by attendance and student involvement, the soccer environment at Penn State is improving. What else can be done to help spark student and community interest for soccer in State College?
MH: Continuously promoting the soccer programs is the key and providing incentive at the games for the students to come helps as well. But the ultimate thing is promoting the games around campus, whether it’s handing out flyers or making announcements to our classes. We know that if we want the fans at our games, then we have to make the effort to get them there.
OS: How has your experience playing for Team USA affected your game here at Penn State?
MH: Playing for the U.S. has definitely improved my game both technically and tactically. Playing against the best players in the country, especially when they were older than me, forced me to develop other aspects of my game and not just rely on my speed. The fact that there’s only small details that separates one player from another, forces you to make your strengths stronger and your weaknesses stronger as well.
OS: Although you are only a Sophomore, what are your plans after Penn State? Do you plan on finishing your degree?
MH: After I graduate from Penn State, I would like to continue playing either for the WPS or possibly overseas, and then I would like to coach later on in life, which is why I’m majoring in Kinesiology.
OS: It wouldn’t be a 10 Questions segment without Onward State’s signature question. If you were a dinosaur, which one would you be?
MH: If I were a dinosaur… I would probably be one of the faster dinosaurs, but one that was skinny and muscular too. Is there a dinosaur that fits that description? (Authors note: A Velociraptor, perhaps?)
OS: Complete this sentence. Before I die, I am going to:
MH: Live life to the absolute fullest and with no regrets.
OS: They make a movie out of your life. Who plays you and what song plays over the credits?
MH: If a movie was being made out of my life, I think the actress Sanaa Lathan would play me and Next To You featuring Justin Bieber by Chris Brown would play over the credits.