When Sam Hayward entered the University of Pennsylvania last August as a freshman, the school’s soccer team had not won an outright championship in 17 years.
Less than a year later, the former Highland Park standout scored the winning goal against Princeton in the penultimate game of the season, helping the Quakers claim an Ivy League title. After a victory over Harvard in the season finale last fall, Hayward and his teammates are sporting championship rings.
Hayward was a highly recruited athlete during his time with the Scots, as well as with the Solar Academy select team. He was contacted by more than 50 Division I college programs.
During Hayward’s junior year, Solar won the Dallas Cup in the under-18 group after winning six games in eight days. The squad also reached the U.S. Soccer Development Academy quarterfinals. Hayward’s twin brother, Connor, is a former goalkeeper for HPHS who is now playing for Washington & Lee University in Virginia.
The striker selected Penn after finding a connection with head coach Rudy Fuller. He saw significant action as a freshman and was second on the team with five goals, including two against rival Drexel.
“He really cares about his players, on and off the field,” Hayward said. “I knew I wanted to play Division I soccer at a college where I connected with the coach and which was also strong academically, so this seemed a great fit.”
Hayward’s transition from U.S. academy soccer to collegiate soccer went smoothly due in part to the rigorous academy training program, which includes a year-round season. The youth soccer program in Texas is nationally competitive.
“It is really exciting to see the U.S. competing head-to-head with other world soccer powers like Brazil, Germany and England,” Hayward said.
He hopes one day to join those other countries on the field while competing internationally.
This story appears in the July edition of Park Cities People, on stands now.