The article below is a post from owner Adam Lewin
It was February 11th, right before midnight, and I was sitting in my kitchen staring at a blank computer screen after a three hour Zoom call.
On that call, soccer leaders from leagues around the country were discussing different scenarios that could play out for the 2021 season. It was a blender full of thoughts from some of the best minds in the industry.
Each representative had their own idea how the upcoming season was going to unfold. Depending on which area of the country the person was speaking from, you’d think soccer would soon be playing in full stadiums or was on the verge of global collapse.
It was a roller coaster phone call to say the least.
Towards the end of the conversation one thing became abundantly clear: No one had any idea what the future held.
While an optimistic tone rang through the talks, the hopes of each caller ran straight into a brick wall of reality concerning our current state of affairs. COVID cases were still sky high, there were vaccine supply and distribution issues, and without a let up in our color coded grid there was no way we’d reach the levels needed to get on the field, let alone in a safe environment in front of fans.
After saying goodbyes, I turned off my camera, leaned back in my chair, watched the screen go dark and thought to myself, “How on earth is this going to happen?”
Every morning after that call felt like groundhogs day.
The soccer world would wake up, exchange texts, check to see if any movement had been made on restrictions, and then go about their day shuffling their feet.
As time passed by, there was a growing chorus that for two years in a row we would not be playing soccer.
That chorus became louder as the end of March rounded out.
At 6:00am my phone was buzzing so much that it fell off my nightstand and onto the floor where the corner of the screen promptly cracked.
At first I thought Messi had left Barcelona.
Then I shook my head, cleared out the cobwebs and told myself, “Impossible”.
So what was going on?
Word leaked the governor of California was planning to reopen the state on June 15th…and people were going crazy.
At first there was a feeling of joy and euphoria. Not only would the returning champs be back on the field, the Lionesses were finally hitting the pitch. It would be a milestone achievement for our community and the team could be a part of helping our area feel that some sense of normalcy had returned.
That feeling of euphoria was short lived and soon replaced by a new feeling. That one you get when you forget your ID at home after rushing to get to Sacramento International Airport for a flight. That feeling of…“uh-oh”.
Then it hit like a bag of bricks…Holy sh*t, we’re having a season…in a few weeks.
It normally takes five to six months to build out a proper season.
Between securing venue dates, applying for permits, confirming insurance, building a roster of players, and checking off a laundry list of other items, it takes months of administrative work to get the operations and logistics in order.
We had to complete all of these tasks in five to six weeks...for two teams.
Even after word circulated the leagues were back, we still did not fully have an answer for how this was going to work.
While a date was set for California's reopening (June 15th), that did not mean there was a magical switch that when turned on business and government offices would begin operating as normal.
That’s just not how it works.
Most agencies were still trying to figure out how to safely get their doors back open with enough staff to operate properly. We needed those agencies to process paperwork in order to step one foot on the field.
Then we had insurance questions to work through which were complicated by pre and post restriction dates on our calendar. Coupled with guidance that was grey in some areas and it led to a carousel of phone calls. Most places just didn’t have concrete answers to the questions we were asking.
Tag in testing needs and practice restrictions and it was enough to make your eyes squint at the start date and say….huh?
So how’d we do it?
First, the City of Davis was amazing helping us get the teams back out on the field. Sonia Chavez and Kristina McClellin were lifesavers processing our requests and supplying us with the needed information to host matches pre and post the lifting of restrictions. A massive thank you to both for helping us get over the finish line this summer.
Second, Healthy Davis Together was an invaluable resource for not only our community but for our greater area. Having the best testing operation in the country gave us the confidence we could responsibly get back to competition in a safe environment. That goes for our players and fans.
Third, for those that know Ted Parks at Woodstock’s, he is one of the hardest working members of our town. There is literally no substitute for this man. He and his crew got ready on short notice, with shifting schedules, securing permits, and brought the pizza, beer, and wine to our matches. Kudos to Ted and crew for providing the buzz (not the lights!) and food to our fans all summer long.
Fourth, everyone involved under the FC Davis operation. From coaches, to interns, to our women’s team executive board, to Chris Lossin at Yolo Athlete, and our partner’s Davis AYSO and AYSO United (Go United!!!) it was a total team effort to pull off what seemed like the impossible. Game days are a string of little items that need to be completed in order to make a game run smoothly and our crew made it happen. Bill and Robin Byrne brought team and referee water while cutting down drastically on our plastic usage (0%!). Cem and Tondi Bolkan set up our cameras and organized our Founding Member group. Our awesome interns/workers that were led by Mesara Jayalath and Deepak Sah took care of logistics. And the voice of FC Davis home matches Rohan Baxi put a smile on match goers faces. Everyone did their part to get this season off the ground and make it memorable.
Finally, the fans. The local soccer community showed up in force this summer supporting our men’s and women’s teams. FC Davis does not exist without you and we thank you for the continued and growing support as we came back from extremely difficult circumstances.
With a dash of hard work, a sprinkle of creativity, and a whole lot of emails, we were on the field ready to kick some butt in 2021.
The Launch of the Lioness
June 17, 2021 at 7:00pm is a moment that will be carved into our local soccer history. It was the first time ever an adult women’s team hit the field representing Davis in a national league.
After a year delay and then a season we thought might not happen, opening night was worth the wait.
That night the stands were packed.
The weather was perfect.
Kids were smiling.
A trio of local stars scored goals.
It was a glorious event where the Lionesses secured a 4-0 victory in front of our local soccer community, most of whom watched these girls grow up from their first kicks of the ball.
The team was assembled with players that compete across the country but have roots in our local area. From Miami to LA, San Diego to Chicago it was a unique experience organizing a group of supremely talented young women and crafting them into a team.
What was a bit unexpected was the reach and broad interest these student-athletes would garner.
It wasn’t only Davis.
Ari Coronado (CBU) and Alexa Madueno (San Diego St.) had fans pouring in from Woodland.
Gaby Herrera did the same with contingents from Dixon.
And the same could be said for our players that reside in American Canyon, Sacramento, Roseville and Elk Grove who had family and friends coming to watch them play from all over Northern and Southern California.
A couple who was passing through from Montana heard about the team and made a stop in Davis just to watch them play.
Now that’s reach!
Our UC Davis crew of Molly Branigan, Leslie Fregoso, Frankie Van Norden, Alana Curtis, and Janessa Staab secured a legion of new local fans with their performance during matches.
Then there were the Davis girls, an entire army of them, putting on the jersey that brings our town a sense of pride and togetherness. Something special that for a town our size may not be able to be replicated ever again. Players like Lily Byrne (Colorado College), Tiffany Miras (Sacramento State), the Mitchell twins (University of Chicago), the Curtis sisters, Julia (Cal) and Alana (UC Davis).
Even Skye Shaffer (Santa Barbara) who was injured this summer showed out in support.
The messages that poured in from every corner of our community reinforced that every late night spreadsheet that was surveyed over with heavy eyes was worth it.
These women had a broad impact, from young to old, that is hard to put into words.
In total, we had players suit up from 22 different universities and we also rostered one of our top local high school stars, rising senior Kenna deLemos (Go Kenna!!!) who resides in Woodland.
The roster make-up was perfect and we couldn’t have asked for a better group of girls both on and off the field.
As we all witnessed, the WPSL is an amazing league for our college stars to play in. The quality on the field every game is a great showcase for local area talent.
The league also serves a valuable part in the current women’s soccer ecosystem, helping collegiate players stay fit during their summer months.
But with a season starting in June and ending in July, it all seems so…short?
It made everyone want more, but how do you provide more if nothing exists?
As the summer went on, that one question kept going through my mind.
What do Jada Macairan, Julia Curtis, Gaby Herrera, Ele Avery, and the swath of other soon to be graduates have to look forward to?
Where do they play after graduation?
Why isn’t there something out there for them aside from a summer season?
Currently the infrastructure in our country for year round women’s soccer is near non-existent. In Northern California (aside from SF’s city league) we have nothing.
By the end of the summer, one thing became clear, we need more platforms for women to play post college.
In order to advance the women’s game, year round teams need to start forming in regional formats. Northern California is lucky to have population density and it’s time we take advantage of it.
Too many players have no outlet to compete in an organized, competitive manner after their senior year. Even if they take a year or two off, eventually that feeling of getting ready for a match comes roaring back.
To help fill the void for our local area, we are starting a year round women’s program under the FC Davis umbrella.
The year round program will play in the fall and spring, taking the summer and winter off.
More on this (a lot more!) in the coming weeks, but the goal is to provide a home for female players post college that can be used to stay involved with the game both competitively and socially.
Hey! If you or someone you know is interested, please enter the information HERE. We will be sending out details at the beginning of September.
The Return of the Champions
“Dang! We have to play THEM the first game of the season?”
When our squad rolled into Napa Valley for the first game of the year, those were the first words we heard when walking through the gates.
It’s no surprise.
One look down the line of our team and you’d think the Iceland hockey team from the Mighty Ducks just walked onto the field.
Just scary (even though they are the nicest guys ever!).
The Lions had a combination of core players padded by some of the best local talent we’ve seen in quite some time.
On the back line, Jaime Robles, Antonio Andres, and Tyler Moss locked down opponents all year long.
We added in Alex Sundly, a former MLS and overseas pro, alongside midfield wizard Caua Soares.
New local players, such as Max Howland, had a huge impact during the season.
And players such as Justin Wright, Evan Alvarez, Ty Shikashio, and Jonathan Laughlin we’re returning back to the pitch.
To top it off, our new coach Kris Hall was off the charts good.
One look at what was assembled and it was a clear recipe for success.
And that’s just what happened.
The Lions dominated the regular season.
The team lost one game all year while racking up 24 goals in 7 matches. To complement their offense, the men only gave up 10 goals on the season, finishing with a conference best +14 goal differential…more than double their closest opponent.
It was a fun, exciting and entertaining season that saw the team score some magical goals while securing result after result.
After the final regular season game, the Lions claimed the #1 playoff seed for the second season in a row (oh ya!).
Unfortunately, playoff deja vu struck.
Despite rolling through the regular season, the men had an off day and were knocked out of the playoffs by the Sonoma County Sol.
While the playoffs didn’t end as we wanted, we couldn’t be more proud of the way our men performed this season while having such a positive impact in the local community.
So What’s Next?
This fall FC Davis is unleashing a flurry of new programs while building upon existing ones as we continue to build our organization to serve the needs of our local soccer community.
It begins with the men’s team quest to qualify for the US Open Cup (story out next week!).
We have camp updates, women's team updates, community college team updates. Maybe even some youth program updates (!!!).
As we build into 2022, we are hosting our first ever FC Davis High School All-Area game. There will be a match for the boys and girls teams.
It's going to be a fun 12 months.
Check out the full list of announcements below. We look forward to seeing everyone soon!