At Texas Southern University, a vast majority of the Lady Tigers soccer team is women from the United States, and one from Australia.
Paige Hayward is not only a college student in Texas but she has become one of TSU’s most gifted athletes. Hayward is the Australian who is making her mark on the western side of the globe and it all started in the Australian suburb of Earlwood.
“I was running around with all the boys until I was 12 and that was when I got asked to play Women’s Premier League soccer in Australia” Hayward said via email.
With a population of over 16,000 individuals, Earlwood is located about eight miles south of Sydney, the country’s largest city. Most people may have never heard of Earlwood, but now know of it as the birthplace of Hayward’s soccer background.
Paige has made clear that soccer was her life and made it at a young age.
“At 4 years old my parents put me into soccer and ever since then I have never looked back,” Hayward said.
Senior year in high school arrived. She was a student- athlete, active in many sports, and decides to go to college in addition to continue playing soccer. Her choice became University of Texas at Brownsville, but only for the 2014-2015 season.
In 2012, the University of Texas System Board of Regents approved a proposal to null UT-Brownsville and the University of Texas-Pan American. Both schools were still active while the changes were underway. Once they were, the nullification of the schools were made official in 2015, thus their merger to create the now-named University of Texas Rio Grande.
Hayward was to make another decision: stay or transfer. Once she decided to become a transfer sophomore, the search for a new school and new team had begun.
TSU women’s soccer head coach Kathryn Saunders was recruiting at the time and heard about the Australian international.
“I was looking to bring in an international player who was well-rounded both athletically and academically,” Saunders said via email as well.
“I heard about Paige from a coaching friend who told me that UT-Brownsville was closing its doors and a few of the players were looking for a place to continue to play.”
Saunders watched some of Hayward’s film and spoke with her a few times. There she knew she would be a great fit for her program, so did the new transfer sophomore. Hayward did not only choose Texas Southern because of the soccer program and the overall family feel of the team, her major was the other factor.
“Texas Southern also has my desired major, Bachelor of Science in Dietetics,” Hayward said.
Coming to a new university can be difficult to fit in, but Hayward did not think that.
“I was able to adjust to being a student-athlete quite easily because in Australia school and soccer were separate, but now they are both at the same place and it makes it a lot easier,” Hayward said.
Her transition to TSU has worked out so far. Now she is working on her studies while also playing for the university’s soccer team at one of the most difficult positions in the sport as midfielder. As well as a forward, Hayward has the skillset to be a player at the highest level. She may be far away from Earlwood, but her time in Texas is now the next part of her journey.
For information about women’s soccer, visit http://www.tsuball.com/index.aspx?path=wsoc&
For information about the merger of UTB and UT-PanAm, go to http://www.themonitor.com/news/local/article_cec2bf8e-3fd9-11e2-8651-001a4bcf6878.html