This is the first of a multi-part series of features on Racing Louisville’s rookie class of 2022 that will be released here and via the Butchertown Rundown podcast (@ButchertownR) on the Beautiful Game Network. Check out the second part of the series here with a podcast interview with Savannah DeMelo.
A Dream Come True
Back in January 2021, Kirsten Davis knew there was a decent chance she’d be drafted. Her coach at Texas Tech had been in contact with Racing Louisville’s coaching staff so she was aware that clubs were interested. Still, there was no guarantee she’d be chosen at all.
Like all college seniors in 2021, Davis was entered into the draft automatically. This was, in part, to enlarge the pool of players available after the NCAA gave student athletes an extra year of eligibility to make up for a season truncated by COVID.
Davis had already decided that she’d be returning to Texas Tech for a fifth year. But that didn’t mean she wasn’t hopeful she’d get drafted.
“We just watched the draft and I was like if my name gets called that’s going to be a dream come true. And if not then I knew I was staying another year anyway so I could enter the draft again.”
It ends up she didn’t have to wait too long. Racing Louisville selected the Texas Tech forward 13th overall with their fourth pick of the evening.
“When my name was called I was so excited,” recalls Davis with a beaming smile. “That was literally a dream come true.”
Still, her mind was made up. She would return to Texas for an additional year of development. The COVID pandemic whittled her senior year down to only eight games instead of the normal 20-plus matches. At times, practices only included a handful of players because so many were out due to close contact with COVID-positive individuals.
“I knew I wanted to focus on my development. Just having a true senior year of 20 plus games under my belt before I step onto the highest level of soccer in the U.S. I knew I could focus on areas of development and know that I’m going into the NWSL with everything that I’ve been working towards and being my best self.”
A Very Exciting Year
To say 2021 ended up being a big year for Kirsten Davis would be an understatement.
After returning to Texas Tech, the forward was named the Big 12 Offensive Player of the year with 14 goals and six assists in 19 appearances. In the meantime, she would also become engaged to her boyfriend, start graduate school, and maintain a 4.0 GPA.
Playing another year of college ball after being drafted might lead some players to sit back and feel confident their professional career was secure. Not Davis.
“I think it motivated me, even more, to play and just continue to get better at the college level because I knew that there was going to be a chance I can play in the NWSL.”
Her hard work paid off.
Davis’ performance on the pitch impressed Racing Louisville so much they included her on the protected list for the 2022 Expansion Draft. Out of only nine players allowed to be protected, the still professionally unproven Davis made the cut over players who had been with Racing in 2021. Then, in late December, she became the first rookie signed for the 2022 season. When asked about these achievements, Davis remains humble and simply calls it “a very exciting year.”
Becoming a professional soccer player has been a lifelong dream for Davis. She grew up idolizing Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe. When her family moved to Australia for several years during middle school, she fell in love with the more technical style of play she discovered there.
“I was like, well, I’m really serious about this. I just want to get better and better. And I remember being in my backyard watching Alex Morgan do soccer videos on YouTube of her juggling and stuff and I would recreate that. That’s really when I knew I wanted to try to be a professional soccer player and play at the highest level that I can.”
Davis remains a technically-focused player. Although a forward, she enjoys playing both sides of the ball. She describes herself as a facilitator in that she likes to “facilitate other people and help them score goals” as much as scoring them herself.
A Really Special Community
Although Davis says her interactions with Racing staff were limited throughout 2021, she still followed the club closely as they embarked on their inaugural season. Now that she’s with Louisville and the preseason Challenge Cup is fast approaching, she says looking forward to experiencing gameday in person.
“I’m so excited to see the stadium like when there’s actually a game day and there are fans and the support and all of that. Just ’cause I’ve been following it for a year now and just seeing it on Twitter and everything, it just looks like a really special community that Louisville has with soccer.”
So far, Davis says her first impressions of the club environment at Racing have been positive. She calls the facilities “awesome” and says she’s been impressed by the extent of the resources provided to players. From the different training fields to the training staff to the cafeteria and the gym. All of it has been exciting to experience. And getting to play every home game in Lynn Family Stadium is a definite plus, too.
Says Davis of the stadium: “I’m so excited to play in the game there because it is just so cool.”
Players have been warm and welcoming to the new players. So have staff members and other club personnel. This has helped ease her transition from college to pro while also helping the team come together quickly.
“It can be kind of scary at times to be on a new team with a bunch of new people,” says Davis, “but it’s definitely gotten a lot easier and more feels more like a team as time goes on.”
A Fresh, Clean Slate
Racing will have to build their team chemistry quickly in the off-season. Despite only being a year old, the team is in something of a rebuild. Racing turned over almost 50% of their roster after their inaugural season making Davis far from the only newcomer on the roster.
Despite the learning curves inherent to adding a large percentage of new players, Davis sees the positives in the situation. She says the environment is almost like “a fresh, clean slate” which gives new players ample opportunity to demonstrate their value to the club. Some of the other new teammates have had a beneficial effect, too.
“I think it’s really motivating and exciting to have so many new people. Especially adding Jess [McDonald] who’s such a big role model and veteran for so many young people. It’s so cool to have her a part of our team so we can see how she carries herself as a pro after so many years in the league.”
Understandably, though, the team is still a work in progress even if Davis says they’re making strides.
“Even just a couple of weeks into preseason you can already see how much closer this team is becoming,” says Davis of player interactions. The first team trip to Tallahassee to play Florida State University in a couple of preseason scrimmages has also been helpful.
“Aside from practices and being at the facilities, we’ve done some team bonding activities like bowling and now we’re in Florida. Being able to travel together and stuff, I think that’s already helping strengthen our relationships off the field.”
Quality team bonding. 😌 pic.twitter.com/P61uDRX7WT
— Racing Louisville FC (@RacingLouFC) February 22, 2022
According to Davis, on and off-field relationships go hand-in-hand. The stronger the bond off the field, the harder teammates will play for each other during matches. Despite only having a few weeks together, she says the team is “definitely improving” now that they’ve continued getting to know each other.
When asked about her own goals for her rookie season, Davis says, “I just want to make an impact in any way I can.”
This ties into what she says is the teams’ collective goal in 2022 is to improve upon what was started last year. Despite finishing 2021 in ninth place, Racing ended on a high note with a win and two draws.
“I want our team to finish better than what they did last year. Because last year, they were brand new and as a whole team we’ve been saying that we just want to finish in a better spot than what we did. And they were starting to play better and better each game and so this year we just want to keep going in that same direction.”