Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
RIO GRANDE — Payten Davis is going to need to build a bigger trophy case.
The sophomore at Rio Grande and graduate of Chillicothe High School, led the RedStorm’s soccer program this past season with 17 goals and 37 points in 17 games.
For those efforts, she earned a pair of Player of the Year awards inside the River States Conference — she was named the Offensive Player of the Year as well as the league’s overall Player of the Year on Nov. 10.
But, in case you haven’t heard, those two honors were far from her last.
Last week, Davis was included on the NAIA Women’s Soccer All-American honorable mention list. The honor marked just the second time in Rio Grande women’s soccer history where a player was adorned with an All-American honor.
Davis heard about the news during finals week and instantly … because Payten Davis is Payten Davis … had bigger goals.
“[Rio Grande] Coach [Tony Daniels] called me after one of my finals and congratulated me for being the second girl in Rio women’s soccer history to be named an All-American,” she said. “I was pretty excited and after he told me the last thing he said was, ‘So what are we going to do next year?’ My response was ‘first-team.’”
If you’re doubting that she’ll achieve that milestone, you obviously haven’t watched her play.
Since arriving on campus in the fall of 2017, Davis has emerged as a go-to scoring option for Rio. After scoring seven goals during her freshman campaign, she now has 24 over her career.
“The only goal and game that stands out most to me this season was in our game against West Virginia Tech. It was 1-1 and I had scored the first goal,” Davis recalled. “With eighty seconds or so left, I was fed the ball and drove at the keeper, faked her out and finished. We won 2-1. We knew that was a big game. They were really a good team and it was exciting to beat them.”
If you follow Rio’s women’s team, or if you followed Davis while she was a Cavalier, you know having her on the field is exciting by itself. She’s now brought those traits to the RedStorm.
And, as usual, she’s always thinking of ways to be better than she already is.
“I think the best part of my game is my speed and my ability to take people on 1v1,” Davis said. “One thing I need to improve on most is being comfortable to shoot the ball in certain situations rather than take the extra touches, which sometimes cuts off my angle on the goal.”
She admits that there were changes that took place in between her freshman and sophomore seasons … both on and off the field … and they certainly helped her become not only a better player, but a better person.
“I think the biggest [on-field] difference would be my confidence and my level of comfort on the ball. My first season at Rio, I was not as comfortable taking people on as I know I can be,” she said. “Personally, I think I have came out of my shell a lot and opened up with teammates, which has helped our team chemistry on the field.”
Over the past two seasons, Rio Grande has compiled an overall record of 17-18-1 with a mark of 10-6-2 in league action. This past year, the RedStorm ended at 7-9-1 overall after losing to Indiana University East in the RSC Tournament Quarterfinals.
“Overall, I think this year went pretty well. We had just beaten the number one team in our conference [Asbury, 2-1], who then went onto win the conference championship,” Davis said. “Unfortunately, we did lose early in the quarterfinals. We had beaten [Indiana East] 1-0 the first time around. But looking forward to next year, I’m excited. I think we all are. We have a lot of talent coming in with freshmen, as well as girls that have been with us and haven’t been eligible yet. We just need to connect simple passes and learn to build.”
Davis’ 17 goals as a sophomore led the RSC and was 26th nationally. She also ranked fifth nationally with five game-winning goals and was second on her team with three assists.
But per her personality, she’s not done working yet.
“Going into junior season, we’re definitely looking to go further in the tournament and be the best team in our conference,” Davis said. “Personally, I would like to outscore my 17 goals this season and hopefully get a higher honor with All-American.”
Time will tell.
But if history repeats itself like they say it does, don’t bet against her … unless you like losing bets.