The UCLA Women’s Soccer team had a storybook season that came to an end in the finals of the NCAA Championship when they fell to Stanford 3-2. If you had to choose a Cinderella for the story, junior forward Hailie Mace would be a great choice. Mace had a career year in her first year playing forward. The former defender entered the season with zero career goals and has scored a team-leading 15 this year to rank ninth in the nation in goals. Not bad for a girl who wasn’t even recruited until her senior season of high school. She carved her own path, which is why we chose Hailie as our Case Study #1.
Here’s our Q&A with the Bruins’ superstar.
1)Did you make a conscious choice not to play at a big club early on? I’ve read that it was to stay with friends; was it a tough decision?
No one I knew was going to play soccer in college so we honestly had no idea how it worked or that we even needed to be on a well-known club team. So, no, it wasn’t a hard decision. No one from Ventura FC really committed to play at a young age like most people do now.
2)You played volleyball and soccer at high school and club soccer. How did you manage it all?
My club volleyball coach knew I would miss stuff for soccer because that’s what I wanted to play in college, so he didn’t mind if I missed sometimes. Soccer was the priority, so if I had some conflicting stuff, I’d choose soccer. But soccer and volleyball was year round basically.
3)You stayed with Ventura FC and your friends until your senior year; what made you decide to change at that point?
Yeah, we talked about moving clubs because they knew I wanted to play in college, but we didn’t really have the money. It was hard to leave my friends because I’d been playing with them all my life, but I needed to be seen. I can’t really remember who the driving force was. I know my mom talked to a lot of parents, so maybe that’s why.
4)Your mom put you in a pool of players to play at the larger tournaments – was this helpful in your recruiting process?
Getting borrowed on teams was definitely helpful. And yeah, that’s where the footage came from! They chose randomly based on your profile and based on what you’ve done with your other club teams.
5)How was your skill set comparatively when you moved to the more competitive club your senior year? Were you at a disadvantage from not playing at a high-level club or from playing multiple sports?
The speed of play was a little different and everyone around me was good, so it was definitely more challenging and more fun. My fitness improved from playing with Eagles because with my old club team we didn’t really run much. My soccer skills were a little rusty, but I got the hang of things pretty quickly. I’m not really a skillful player anyways, though.
6)How would you describe your motivation and commitment level as a middle school athlete and high school athlete?
Middle school I was kinda just having fun, playing every single sport possible because I played basketball as well, and keeping busy. And then in high school I made varsity freshman year so I had to take it more seriously because I was playing with girls twice my size and 4 years older than me.
7)What was your goal or your dream in high school as far as soccer and college?
All I knew was I wanted to go D1. I didn’t really know anything else. I knew I always wanted to play with the national team too.
8)Your junior year you had no offers yet and no interest; what was the plan at that point?
If I didn’t get any offers I was just going to play for VC so we didn’t really talk about it that much. They knew I was good enough to go D1; it was just a matter of who wanted me.
10)If you did it over again what would you do differently?
Well, I’m so thankful for the way things happened. Like it couldn’t have happened any better for me. But I would probably start to play for a well-known club team starting in middle school, and make sure I went to college showcases.
11)What advice do you give young girls playing soccer who want to play in college?
Honestly, just have a great work ethic. Coaches look for that kind of mentality because you can’t teach that. Also, be willing to play wherever a coach needs you. You’ll have much more success and opportunities if you are versatile.
12)You now have since played for a National Championship and played with the U23 National Team, could you ever have imagined you would reach this level for your soccer?
I never imagined I would be at this high of a level. It was always my dream to be where I am today but I never really pictured it coming true. I knew I was good enough but it was all a matter of how things worked out and where I went to school. I’m so grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given.
13) If there’s one thing you want parents/young soccer girls to know or understand, what would it be?
I would have to say, play multiple sports when you’re young. I think most people get burnt out and lose their love for the game if they only do soccer, soccer, soccer since they were 7 years old. The fact that I was playing soccer, basketball and volleyball up until high school made me love soccer even more because I didn’t burn myself out on one thing.