Haley Kostyshyn’s journey makes her success that much more impressive

French playwright Moliere said, “The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it.” For Rice University’s Haley Kostyshyn, she’s had to overcome a lot on the road back to the sport she loves.

“In the summer of 2018, there were many signs that something was not right with my health,” Haley explained to BGN. “I had persistent body aches and muscle pain in all parts of my body that I had never felt before. I would sleep for absurd hours through the night and still wake up feeling like I haven’t slept. I would get weird rashes and constant headaches that were all just unexplainable.”

“However, it took chest tightness and shortness of breath for me to realize that something was seriously wrong. I remember multiple instances where I felt like someone was sitting on my chest and I was gasping for air just watching TV in my living room – that was the main indication.”

With her health concerns ongoing, Haley was forced to miss the 2018 soccer season. She recalled, “Sitting out the 2018 season was extremely hard for me, especially because I still did not know what was wrong with me and I didn’t know if I would ever really be back on the field. Watching all of my best friends go to practice and team events every day that I didn’t participate in was really hard.”

“I had to find who I was without soccer, which was something I hadn’t done in 15 years. I remember every game and practice I would watch I was just fueled to come back stronger and to get back on the field and be able to feel like myself again.”

In March 2019, she was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder (not one clearly defined disease, between lupus and Sjogren’s). “After receiving my diagnosis, I still was unsure whether my body would let me play again or if I could even get back to where I was physically and mentally before everything happened,” Kostyshyn remembered. “Even though I had no idea how things were going to play out, I knew I had to give it a try after all I had been through.”

Before she could return to the pitch, Haley would need to work her way back into soccer fitness. “After I began training again and I knew that everything was safe and I was healthy, I was determined to make the most of my time,” she said. “Working back into shape became more of a hobby than anything because I was deprived of doing it for so long.”

After scoring two goals in her first two collegiate seasons, Kostyshyn re-introduced herself in a big way during 2019 with seven goals and four assists and earned Conference USA All-Tournament Team honors. She explained, “Being able to just get out on the field for the season in 2019 with all my best friends around me was everything I could possibly ask for. Upon my return for the 2019 season, I was just determined to play and see how much better I can get. Both my coaches and my teammates made that possible by pushing me and encouraging me every single day.”

Instead of that being her final season, the NCAA granted her one additional year due to her medical hardship in 2018. “Knowing I have another year of eligibility is truly a blessing,” she said. “I can think of a handful of people who would kill to have another year of college soccer and that alone fuels me to want to make the most of it. What motivates me most is looking back on my turnaround from 2018-2019 and knowing that now I have more time to improve even more.”

“I think a lot of people need to lose something to understand how much it means to them and after losing soccer for a glimpse of my career, that really makes me want to be the best I can every single day, knowing any day can be my last.”

As much as Haley has excelled on the soccer pitch, she’s matched that success in the classroom. Every year she’s been at Rice, she’s landed on the Conference USA All-Academic Honor Roll and has been a Rice Honor Athlete. “Coming to such a prestigious school like Rice has taught me just how important and competitive academics can really be,” the Kinesiology and Sport Management major said. “Before coming to Rice, soccer was my main form of competition, but students here compete in the classroom every day and that alone just encourages me to work harder. When I lost soccer for a small part of my career, I was forced to think of life outside of soccer.”

“As much as I would love to be an athlete for the rest of my life, there is going to be a time when I need to pursue a career. Knowing this, I have learned to create a balance between academics and athletics. Being able to compartmentalize my life has become super important. Learning when to focus on soccer and when to focus on school wasn’t easy but being able to dissociate from either one when focusing on the other is something that has granted me a lot of success.”

As we sit here in February 2021, Haley’s able to look back at how her life has changed since her initial symptoms appeared. She explained, “Since 2018 a lot has changed in my daily life. I’ve had to learn how to take care of my body more than I ever really did before. I now have to keep up with doctor’s visits, medication and on top of that just fueling my body with healthy foods that make me feel good.”

After one match in 2021, she appears to be feeling good. With her team trailing McNeese 1-0, Haley headed home the equalizer before Mikala Furuto found the match-winner. Tomorrow afternoon, the Owls will look to push their record to 2-0 to start the season when they face UTSA. Kickoff is set for 4 PM CT (sign up to watch it live here).


Carson A Merk

Reporting live from Sin City, I have covered both RGVFC and Las Vegas Lights FC since their inceptions. I also write profiles to highlight players from the NCAA to USL to NWSL and everywhere in between.