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St. Joseph’s College star Usta ends season as nation’s leading goal scorer

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Cansu Usta is glad she decided to stay in her home town for college rather than leave Brooklyn and soccer behind to head to the University of Albany.

“I wanted to stay in Brooklyn, she said. “I was thinking about going to Albany but I realized Brooklyn was the best place to be, and I got to play soccer here, so it’s a double hit.”

The former Fort Hamilton star opted to continue her soccer career at St. Joseph’s College, where she netted a nation-leading 36 goals in her freshman season as the Division III Lady Bears’ go-to goal scorer.

Usta, last season’s Brooklyn Courier All-Brooklyn Player of the Year, has received national attention for the feat in Newsweek magazine and was featured in Sports Illustrated’s Faces in the Crowd.

She didn’t waste any time proving she could put the ball in the net in her college debut against Medgar Evers, where she scored three times. Bears coach Vadim Chernyakhovsky was not surprised by the level of talent his new striker brought to the team.

“I knew exactly what I was getting,” he said. “I knew exactly the position I wanted her to play. So it was not a surprise to me. It was more of a surprise to some of our ladies that we were finally going to have a striker,” he said. “We were looking for a striker and I think we successfully found one in Cansu.”

As the season progressed, Cansu continued to find the back of the net. Twice this year she scored six goals in a game, which tied the most goals scored in an NCAA game this season. As her success built, her focus always remained on the team, not her personal success. The Lady Bears finished 11–5–0, the winningest season in program history.

“I’m just out there and my first motive is for our team to win the game,” Usta said. “I don’t go out there to score, but whatever I do to help the team is what I do.”

As the season went on, she found herself in a race for top scorer in the nation with Olivia Huber of St. Thomas More College in Kentucky. Huber finished her season with 33 goals and one more point than Usta — 80, in 21 games.

Usta, who played in 16 games with the Lady Bears, said she occasionally check on the race, but didn’t watch it that carefully.

“I would go on every once in a while and see how she was doing,” she said.

Chernyakhovsky sees his freshman’s feat as good for the Bears’ program.

“It’s very exciting,” he said. “I think it’s great for St. Joseph’s College. As a small college, we made a name for ourselves.”

Usta wasn’t sure what to expect in her first season playing collegiate soccer. But staying home in Brooklyn produced a season neither her nor her teammates will ever forget.

“I wanted to score a lot, but never thought it would be this good,” Usta said. “It means a lot, all my hard work has finally paid off. The team helped a lot.”

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