Caitin Hayes – Pro Life
The second part of our feature with client Caitlin Hayes focusses on her time as a professional footballer. This follows on from the interview about being a student-athlete at Mississippi College.
Having spent time with both Manchester clubs before making her senior debut for Everton Ladies, the defender went on to have a successful four years at university.
After winning the Cypriot First Division for the first time in their short history, Barcelona qualified for the UEFA Women’s Champions League.
Hayes scored twice in the 6-0 win over Olimpija Ljubljana and the Cypriot outfit progressed through to the Round of 32, where they narrowly lost 2-1 on aggregate to Scottish champions, Glasgow City.
In the league however, they were in control at the top, going into the final game of the season, against second-placed Apollon Limassol.
A late goal for Apollon saw them overtake Barcelona to win the league and it was heartache for Hayes and her teammates. Over the 24 games, they won 20, drew three and lost one, while they scored 179 goals and conceded only 12 that season.
Hayes lifts silverware with Barcelona FA
The season did end with Barcelona lifting silverware though as they lifted the Cyprus Women’s Cup for the first time in history, after beating Omonoia Nicosia, avenging the loss in the final from the previous two seasons.
Hayes spoke about her time playing in the Champions League. The defender also mentioned the final-day heartbreak and the “honour” of being one of eight women selected to play in an all-star event.
“The season started out like a fairy tale as we competed in the UEFA Women’s Champions League, flying to Slovenia to compete in the group stages,” Hayes said.
“We left Slovenia two weeks later victorious, moving on to the final 32. We went on to play a home and away leg against Glasgow City, narrowly missing out on qualification, falling to City 2-1.
“The whole UWCL experience was amazing and I sure do hope my future will have involvement with the competition again. It’s the type of experience that your nine-year-old self dreams of growing up. With the crowds, TV’s, fancy new sponsored equipment and with all that, the nerves and emotions that accompany the experience are unlike your regular league matches.
“Our season started off successful as we were the first Cyprus team to win an away leg in the final 32 stage, beating Glasgow City 1-0. We then went on to win the Cyprus Super Cup, beating Apollon Ladies in a hard-fought match.
“The league looked like to be in our control. However, entering the final game of the season, and in actual fact the final kick of a long 10 month season, Apollon managed to score talking a 2-1 victory and, subsequently, taking the Cyprus Championship.
“You can honestly only imagine the heartache. That’s sport and nothing drives a competitor like the emotions of a loss. The season ended on a high as we were crowned the Cyprus Women’s Cup champions.
“I always want to leave a team winning it all and, if we don’t, the competitor within me struggles to look at the season as a successful one, so I’ll allow you to make the decision on that one.
“On the back end of the season, I was honoured to be selected for the all-star game. Eight women were voted to compete in an annual, Cyprus vs Internationals event. We competed against and alongside the stars of the Cyprus men’s league. It was another experience I’ll look back on fondly.”
Enjoyable season for Hayes in Cyprus
Cyprus is an island in the Eastern Mediterranean. The club is based in a town called Pyrgos, which is about an hour drive from the capital.
What more can a person want than sun, sea and playing football professionally? It took some time to adjust to the lifestyle in Cyprus compared to life back in the United States.
Hayes had uncertainties about the move at first. However, looking back, it was the “right move at the right time” of the defender’s career.
She added: “Cyprus was a year I’ll never forget. As cliche as that sentence is to read, it couldn’t be truer. Prior to committing to play in Cyprus, I had so many reservations. Looking back, I had no reason to question my instincts that it was the right move. It was the right time for me and my career.
“It took some time for me to adjust to the Greek culture and the pace of life, or the lack of pace in Cyprus. Despite the challenges, I fell slowly, and then all at once, in love with everything about Cyprus. My teammates, coaches, organisation, the culture, the weather and the lifestyle.
“It was my first year out of college playing for a professional organisation. I learnt a lot about, not only the game, but also about myself.
“The best thing about the new surroundings was that I was no longer looked at as the ‘crazy competitor’. This was because everyone within the organisation wanted success as much as the next person. This created a team culture and drive to push each other, to be the best versions of themselves each day.
“If the ‘crazy competitor’ statement needs explaining, I’m often described by most of my friends as the one that will go too far for a win. I’m usually met with someone saying ‘it’s only a game Caitlin’, but, no matter what it is, if there is a score being kept, or a winner and a loser crowned at the end, you can bet it will be an all-in type of attitude on my end and that’s what this past year was.
“I was all in with the soccer, the culture, the relationships and everything it had to offer. I was there completely submerged and, because of that, it can only be described as a year of exponential growth. It was also a year that I gained so much from, even leaving with a little Greek language.”
Hayes had to cut her time with Chattanooga short last year because of her move to Cyprus. However, the centre-back said that she had unfinished business in the US.
The She Wolves play in the Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL). After Caitlin’s season in Cyprus concluded, she headed back across the pond to pull on that Chattanooga jersey again.
Unfinished business for Hayes in Chattanooga
It has been a successful season for Hayes and her teammates so far. The She Wolves currently sit top of the Southeast Conference and are looking for back-to-back conference titles.
The defender believes that returning to Chattanooga to play soccer in summer 2019 was the “only option”.
“I played in Chattanooga last summer and, with the opportunity that awaited in Cyprus. It meant leaving this WPSL summer team early. Being someone who likes to finish what they started, coming back seemed like the only option,” Hayes said.
“It also aligned perfectly with my schedule, as one season ended and another started. Just like that, I’ve jumped back into where I left off.
“Putting soccer to the side, Chattanooga is an amazing place to spend the summer. It’s a place with so many adventure pack activities to offer and a place you can get bored of. Partner that with the amazing relationships I made last year, it sets itself up to be a summer to remember.”
When asked about her ambitions for the summer season, she continued: “We have a special group of girls this season, many of them are returning from the team last year where we did, in fact, win the conference. But short term, it’s focussing on one training session and one game at a time. Leaving it all out there and the rest will handle itself.”
Following the conclusion of the summer season, Hayes will fly back to England to begin life with her new club. She will be playing for Lewes FC Women, who play in the FA Women’s Championship.
The defender will be looking to make her mark back in the English game. She’ll be going up against the likes of Aston Villa, Charlton Athletic and Sheffield United.
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