By Ray Hamill — Fortuna senior Malia Bolden is quick to point out the huge role her mother played in getting her to where she is.
Her coaches believe Bolden’s hard work has also played a big part in her development as an athlete, and collectively they’re all exited about the Husky standout’s future.
On Tuesday, Bolden signed a letter of commitment to play women’s soccer at College of the Redwoods, becoming first-year head coach Taylor McMillin’s first recruit.
Bolden was a four-year varsity starter with the Huskies and has been a defensive anchor and one of the most respected players around the H-DN since breaking into the team.
But she knows none of it would have been possible without her mother, Vannyda Syhaphom.
“She’s always believed in me when I didn’t have confidence and stuff,” Bolden said. “She’s always pushing me to do my best. She’s a single mom with four kids and we all do a lot of sports, and she always goes out of her way.”
Bolden is expected to start in center defense for the Corsairs and is also looking forward to reuniting with McMillin, who coached her last year at Sequoia FC, a local travel club.
And she says playing at the collegiate level has been a longtime ambition of hers.
“I just knew in all the years I’ve been playing soccer that I wanted to play at the next level,” she said. “And the opportunity came up. (Coach McMillin) is such an amazing person and a wonderful coach. She really knows the game well.”
The multi-sport Bolden, whose brother Tai is on the CR track and field team, also has competed for the Huskies in basketball and track.
But it’s her impact on the soccer field that really stood out.
“Malia meant so much to the team,” Fortuna girls soccer coach Samuel Licona said. “She was our leader. Everyone looked up to her.
“What makes her a good soccer player? Obviously she’s athletic, she’s fast, strong, and she’s really intelligent defensively.”
Licona has no doubt Bolden will succeed at the college level and has the skills and mindset to play at a four-year school after her time at CR.
“100 percent,” he said. “I think she’s going to fit in great with College of the Redwoods, especially under coach McMillin. I know she’s going to move on to the next level.”
Bolden certainly enjoyed some great success at the high school level, playing a key role on the program’s first-ever league championship team as a freshman, with the older players on that roster having a big influence on her.
But she says she’ll remember more than just the success from her time with the team.
“Definitely I’ll remember my teammates and the environment,” she said. “We have such a family vibe that I really love, and I love seeing the resiliency of our team. We always push each other to do better, and it feels like sisters.”
Several other local players are expected to play for the Corsairs this fall, including Fortuna’s Maggie Stacy, St. Bernard’s Jessica Rutter, Arcata’s Bailey Cherms and Ferndale Gabby Riley.