Kaiya Stewart was ambitious from an early age. When she was 5, she made it a goal to play Division I college soccer.
In August, the Christopher High senior attained her pursuit of playing at the next level when she made a verbal commitment to play for Boston University.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to play D1 soccer and it’s incredible I’ve been given this opportunity,” she said. “I’m so grateful for having this opportunity because it’s something I’ve always strived for and wanted. It’s a big dream come true.”
A fleet-footed forward, Stewart is averaging over a goal a game in her high school career, an incredibly impressive achievement in a sport where scoring is at times hard to come by. She’s helped lead the Cougars to back-to-back Central Coast Section titles, including a historic CIF NorCal Regional Division IV championship last season.
Although selecting a college is always tough, Stewart said her decision was made easier as she developed a relationship with Boston coach Casey Brown, who was actually the head coach at the University of Pennsylvania when she and Stewart first started talking.
Stewart became sold on Brown’s vision for the program and the way she kept open conversations with her.
“I loved how she communicated with me and her thought process on everything she’s doing,” Stewart said. “I love her philosophy on how to run a program and how she wanted the team to be a close family. So, I wanted to follow her to wherever she went, and I’m so happy I did.”
Stewart had good counsel in choosing her college playing destination. Her older sister, Sonte, is a junior reserve on the Division I program Florida Atlantic women’s volleyball team.
“I had a heart to heart talk with my sister and she said the coaching staff is such a big part of the experience for a college athlete, and you need a good coach who has a good culture in place and believes in you and wants you to strive to be your best and will tell you what you need to work on,” Stewart said.
“From what she was hearing from me about Boston University, I should say yes because I have that positive coach who would dedicate her time to making the team a family. My sister said that is something I should value and I took that to heart. That’s why I decided to commit.”
Stewart also received wise counsel from her mom, Heather, who has coached basketball at nearly every level spanning the last 24 years. Heather currently coaches the CHS girls hoops team and also works for USA Basketball, the Golden State Warriors and the Positive Coaching Alliance.
Because Heather was born in Scotland and has family in England, Kaiya has citizenship status there and thus would be able to play for either the England or Scottish women’s national team, if the opportunity presents itself and she develops into a pro level player.
A member of the powerful De Anza Force ’05 ECNL travel club which is coached by Brandi Chastain, Stewart thanked the CHS soccer coaching staff which is led by Matt Oetinger.
“They’ve always been there for me through the ups and downs,” she said. “They’ll be hard on you but they will be fair and treat you well. Having that experience of playing under them showed me how important it was to have a coaching staff to help build your confidence and how much I valued that and wanting that at the next level.”
Brown first saw Stewart at the Surf Cup in San Diego, one of the nation’s premier showcase events.
Stewart received an email from Brown who gleaned things about Stewart that she took to heart.
“Usually, I’m my worst critic and felt like I could’ve done better, but her sending that email showed she really wanted me. She saw potential in me and it was really nice,” Stewart said. “I played attacking mid in the game she saw me, and she said she liked how I distributed the ball and that I was an unselfish midfielder. If there was a pass, I would make it and in that game I was very aggressive. Any time the ball was around me, I would go after it. She really loved my grit and attitude and said I was a good team player.”
The two kept in touch when Brown offered Stewart a scholarship in August. Even though Stewart had an inkling an offer was coming, the moment was monumentally glorious.
“When you hear the words that we want you to be a part of the team, you feel so happy,” Stewart said. “No matter how much you expect or think it’s going to happen, it’s a dream come true. It’s a good feeling to know all the hard work finally paid off and you’re going to go where you’ve always wanted to be.”
Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected]