Maya Hayes is on fire.
It’s taken just five games for the sophomore to surpass her goal total from a year ago. Not only is she scoring, but she’s starting to find the net multiple times per game.
Hayes’ current run of form provided all the offense the Penn State women’s soccer team needed Friday evening. The forward scored twice, a game tying goal late in the first half and the game-winner in the 51st minute to lead the Nittany Lions to a 3-1 win over NC State in the first game of the Nike Pitt Soccer Classic held in Pittsburgh, Pa.
Penn State coach Erica Walsh pointed to Hayes’ work rate on both sides of the ball as a big reason for her recent run of success.
“She’s grown up a lot, she’s working hard to make things happen and she’s finishing her chances,” Walsh said. “She’s in very good form right now.”
Penn State also turned to its bench for support Friday, with several players coming off the bench to play big roles in the win.
The Wolfpack (4-1) scored first, snapping Penn State’s (4-1) three-game shutout streak and run of 12 unanswered goals. But, trailing for just the second time this season, the Lions responded with three straight scores and ran their winning streak to four, the longest nonconference winning streak since 2005.
“The effort to start the game wasn’t good enough and we got a huge boost from players who came off the bench,” Walsh said. “Jackie Molinda, Whit Church, Ali Schaefer and Emily Hurd in the first half gave us a big boost and helped us to get that first goal.”
After NC State’s Tanya Cain beat Penn State keeper Erin McNulty in the 23rd minute with a chip shot, Molinda and junior midfielder Christine Nairn combined to feed a through ball up to Hayes for the tying score in the 40th minute. Walsh said Molinda won a ball in transition and made a smart play to Nairn that led to the ball up for Hayes.
Once halftime ended, the team came out with plenty on energy and Nairn picked up her second assist of the night on another through ball to Hayes that put Penn State back on top.
Nairn didn’t take a single shot, but recorded her second two-assist game in the team’s last three and now has four helpers for the season after finishing with six last year. The midfielder moved into 10th place all-time at Penn State with 20 career assists.
Sophomore Taylor Schram scored in the 69th minute to seal the win, marking the fourth game in a row the native of Canonsburg, a Pittsburgh suburb, has recorded a point, also picking up an assist on Hayes’ second goal. Redshirt freshman Emily Hurd returned to the field and picked up an assist when she played a cross into Schram who then headed the ball into the net.
“Credit to Schram, she got in a few times, missed a few opportunities but she kept knocking and kept working,” Walsh said. “It was a beautiful service by Emily Hurd that Schram put away and you knew she had one coming tonight. NC State held up well against her but she finally broke them down.”
Hayes also picked up an assist for playing the ball out to Hurd. Penn State has scored 15 goals this season and racked up 22 assists on those goals, as all three scores Friday were double-assisted.
Aside from the goal, McNulty had a fine showing in net, finishing with six saves, three on either side of halftime.
The Lions return to the field Sunday at 2 p.m. against Pittsburgh, and Walsh said the Panthers looked organized and composed after watching their game against Colorado College.