Sky Blue FC's Maya Hayes (pictured) has won two CONCACAF Under-20 Women's Championships and a FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup with the United States. (Photo: FIFA via Getty Images)
PISCATAWAY, New Jersey -- “Do you feel you’ve accomplished what you wanted to do?”
It’s a question Maya Hayes entertained from her close friend Kumar Ghafoor as she attended the 2014 National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) Draft in January.
“It was one of the biggest reflective moments I’ve had,” Hayes said. “I honestly can say yes to that question.”
The question referred to her collegiate days at Penn State, where she helped lead the Nittany Lions to their first appearance in the national championship game two years ago.
Hayes, though, could also say the same about the rest of her career to this point.
After all, she’s won a World Cup with the United States under-20 national team and was selected sixth overall in that draft by Sky Blue FC.
But Hayes isn’t that interested in looking back. The 22-year-old is too busy moving forward.
“To be able to compete in this league and against those types of players is a checklist moment of its own,” Hayes noted. “To win the World Cup definitely makes you hungrier. I don’t want to be complacent. I don’t want the road to stop here.”
Playing in the NWSL is an objective she realized by being one of the most prolific scorers in college soccer, netting 71 goals in 89 collegiate matches. In 2011, her second year, Hayes found the back of the net a remarkable 31 times in only 26 outings.
“It was a combination of things,” commented Hayes on the reasons for that particular success. “My teammates put me in really good positions. It was a pretty cool season.”
Hayes played a pivotal role in the USA’s run to the 2012 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup title. She set the tone by scoring a hat trick in a Group D opening win over Ghana (4-0) and the equalizer in the next game against China (1-1).
The Americans lost to Germany (3-0) in the last match of the Group Stage, but avenged that defeat when they met again in the final (1-0).
“It’s pretty surreal. It’s been two years and I still have a hard time putting it into words,” Hayes said. “To see a group from all over compete during the whole process, the whole tournament and prove that we’re a team to be reckoned with was an amazing experience.”
To get to the World Cup, the United States captured the 2012 CONCACAF Under-20 Women’s Championship in Panama. Hayes leveled in the 79th minute of the final as the U.S. rallied from an early 1-0 deficit to beat Canada, 2-1.
“I literally was just looking on YouTube the other day at the highlight tape of the Canada game,” Hayes said. “To come back and win CONCACAF, it was cool to look back and know that four months later we were in Japan. It was fun to trace back the steps.”
Hayes said she has friends for life from that World Cup winning team.
“You see them at different points, play against them in college games, get to hang out with them in the league and you still feel that embrace, you get a big smile,” she said. “You always have that connection. We always have that special bond.”
In her first year of professional soccer with Sky Blue, which calls Yurak Field at Rutgers University home, Hayes is just a short drive from her hometown of Montclair, New Jersey.
“It’s been great so far,” Hayes said. “Playing this season has already been a great experience. As a rookie you take every bit of information you can. It’s been a bit overwhelming at times, but I’m enjoying it. There’s definitely days where my head is spinning taking in so much information, but I look forward to each and every lesson.”
If history is any precedent, she is a quick learner.