At 5 foot 11 inches tall, midfielder Autumn Hayes stands out among her teammates.
In her first few weeks with the Women’s Premier Soccer League team, her height has garnered some attention, and a nickname.
“Our assistant coach, Josh Thompson, calls me ‘Stretch’ because of my legs and strides being really long,” Hayes said. “Some of our midfielders are 5-2, so it gives me a little advantage over them.”
Hayes and goalkeeper Kelsey Brouwer are tied for the tallest on the team. They stand three inches taller than their next-tallest teammates – Spencer Vasey, Haley Helverson, Ashlie Stokes, and Nicole Pearson.
Entering her senior year at Southwest Minnesota State, Hayes is an exercise science and sports management major who has been a staple of the Mustangs’ lineup, though injuries shortened her 2010 and 2012 seasons. In four seasons, the Minnesota native has racked up 10 goals and three assists, including a 100 percent (6-6) penalty kick conversion rate.
2013 was a highlight year for Hayes, who earned spots on the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) all-academic team, the all-NSIC second team and the NSCAA/Continental Tire All-Central Region second team.
Hayes, part of the school’s first-ever NCAA Division-II Sweet 16 run in 2013, attributes her recent success to breaking away from superstitious ways.
“I used to wake up at 5:30; had a certain meal; wore the same clothing for each game; put everything on my right leg before my left leg; I had to do my hair a certain way every day,” Hayes said. “This last year, though, I decided to get rid of all of those. It just makes you relaxed before the game.”
Away from the soccer field, Hayes says her hidden talent is a photographic memory.
“I never learned a word of Spanish in school. I actually just memorized everything,” Hayes said. “If I could look at my family members’ social security cards, I can remember their social security number. I even had my mom’s credit card number memorized at one point. I can memorize anything by looking at it.”
Hayes is not the only member of her family to play at a high level of athletic competition in. Eriah Hayes, Autumn’s brother, recently signed with the San Jose Sharks of the National Hockey League.
Story by Menace intern Matthew DeWitt
Name: Autumn Hayes
Position: Central midfield
Hometown: La Crescent, Minn.
College, 2014 Class: Southwest Minnesota State, Senior
Major: Exercise science and sports management
Favorite boots: Adidas Copas (Black)
Pregame ritual: None
Hidden Talent: Photographic Memory