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Bulldog soccer player earns shot at the USL W league

Kaya+Scott+on+the+field+against+UCSB+on+Aug.+24.+
Carlos Rene Castro
Kaya Scott on the field against UCSB on Aug. 24.

For Fresno State women’s soccer player Kaya Scott, the sport is so much more than just a game. It’s where she has met everyone she knows and how she lets people know who she is.

“It’s where I’ve had my highest highs and my lowest lows,” Scott said. “I feel like the game lets me express myself in ways I can’t express myself in words.”

She played 14 matches and started four of them in her first season at Fresno State. The team only obtained one victory and had a rough season, but Scott did well enough to be recruited and play for the Stockton Cargo in the USL W, a women’s league launched by the United Soccer League which is one sanctioning level below Major League Soccer.

“Her speed is definitely something not many have at the next level and that’s a huge difference,” said Sialei Manauleleua, co-head coach of the Stockton Cargo. “Her technical abilities and speed are something that we wanted in a high-level athlete and she already knows what to do with the ball before it even gets to her.”

Manauleleua said that apart from her abilities as a soccer player, the biggest thing that caught her attention was how contagious her efforts were for the rest of the team.

“She was definitely one player to count on and [who] always bring the energy. She’s just really hungry to score goals and that brought up the intensity of the team,” Manauleleua said.

Playing for the Stockton Cargo for Scott was a confidence booster.

“It felt like I was part of an all-star team. All the players there were D1 players,” Scott said. “I started going to the gym to get stronger and not get pushed off the ball so easily. I felt so worthy of being a part of such a big thing and that just builds my confidence coming back to Fresno,” she said.

Scott’s entire life revolves around the game of soccer as it contributes to her success, has helped shape her identity and developed her values since she was a child.

The forward was very active as a child. Scott participated in several sports throughout her life including basketball and track and field, but ultimately stuck with soccer.

“From an early age soccer was her sport. She started playing when she was about three to four years old,” said Danielle Mantley, Scott’s mother. “I also played soccer when I was younger and I wanted to see if she liked it.”

As she continued to grow, so did her love for the sport,  which turned out to be an incentive for her to attend college.

“When she was about 10 we took her to a UC Berkeley game. She looked at me and told me ‘This is what I want to do,’” Mantley said.

Scott has traveled across the United States to play in several tournaments, from Southern California to Florida. Mantley showed support for her daughter and has accompanied her throughout her journey as much as she could.

Scott’s mother would even drive her for nearly an hour just to take her to her soccer club practice.

“She wanted to play in college and I was willing to do whatever I could do to help her obtain that dream. During her last two years of competitive soccer before college, she played for Lamorinda Soccer Club in Moraga which is about a 40-minute drive from Brentwood, and they had practice four times a week,” Mantley said.

Scott attributes most of her success to her parents.

“If my parents gave up on me I’d never be where I am today. They were there for me even when I wasn’t there for myself,” Scott said.

There were times when Scott thought she might not be cut out for soccer at the next level, but the encouragement of others led her to continue playing.

“We all go through trials and tribulations in life, and sometimes she can be really hard on herself, but her coaches saw potential in her and so did we as parents,” Mantley said.

Scott was a four-year varsity starter at Heritage High School where she led her team in goals and assists as a sophomore during the 2019 season.

After reaching her peak performance, things took a sharp turn for her when she injured her knee as a junior.

“That injury put me in one of the darkest moments of my life. That was an important year when I was going to have to showcase myself and when I got hurt I didn’t know if I was going to be in college,” Scott said.

Scott plays soccer as a child. (Courtesy of Danielle Mantley)

In addition to her knee injury, the pandemic made it difficult for many athletes to get noticed by four-year institutions.

“For COVID to have happened and for her to come back and hurt her knee was kind of crushing,” Mantley said. “If you look at the recruiting process for the kids at that time it was hard. That would have been her junior year and that’s when all your recruiting happens.”

Scott continued to work hard after recovering from her injury. Which led to her attending a Soccer ID Camp where she was noticed by Fresno State.

“After the camp, I received an email from Fresno State. When I replied, Brian [Zwaschka] texted me about what the program had to offer and a week later I committed,” Scott said.

The forward encountered more challenges during her freshman year with the Bulldogs.

“A lot of freshmen would have a tough season because it’s all new and you don’t know what to expect from a college coach coming in, and that’s pretty scary,” Scott said. “When I came in August I didn’t have any friends or anyone to talk to. I was having nights where I couldn’t sleep well because I was homesick, and having to wake up at eight in the morning for practice was really hard. Being away from family and friends really takes a toll on you,” Scott said.

After facing the uncertainty and challenges of a freshman in her first year of college, Scott feels better about herself for this season.

“Now as a sophomore I know what to expect and I’m focused on being the best player I can be. It’s a fresh start and I’m excited about what we can do this year,” Scott said.

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