As they head into the first round of the Northern Region tournament at home this evening, the Oakton girls soccer team knows a great deal of the Cougars’ success has come thanks to their coach, Kasey Davenport.
Davenport, a star goalie herself at Walsingham Academy in Williamsburg, played college soccer at George Mason University, where she was the team’s starting goalkeeper and team captain for her last two seasons.
“My experiences as a player impact my decisions as a coach every day. I try to remember to consider how busy my players are with school and athletics so I am always cognizant of their time,” Davenport said. “I was fortunate enough to learn from a number of wonderful coaches as a player, and I take the lessons I learned from them into account often. Coaching is fun and exciting because there is always something else to learn.”
After spending the majority of her life as a competitive athlete, Davenport transitioned into coaching, and came to Oakton as an assistant in 2009 under Coach Brooke Alexander. Together, the two guided the previously sub-.500 team to a 14-3 record.
“I always expected that after my playing days came to an end I would coach,” Davenport said. “My mom was a college coach, and she always explained how coaching was a way to give back to my community for all of the wonderful experiences and opportunities athletics has afforded me. Coaching and teaching are two of my passions in life.”
The coach doesn’t think soccer has changed too much from when she graduated high school in 2003.
“There are of course some differences, but I mostly see similarities. I enjoyed my high school soccer experience,” she said. “It was my chance to play for my school and play with my friends that I had grown up with. However, I do think each year the level of play gets better and that is an exciting opportunity for our young athletes.”
When Davenport took over as head coach in 2010, the team went 11-6-1 and made it to the regional finals.
“The success of last year really bolstered our confidence for this season, and we were eager to improve upon last year and push ourselves to accomplish more,” she said. “One of my main expectations for my girls is that they go out each and every day and compete. We pride ourselves on knowing that we gave it our all each time we play.”
The Cougars responded in 2011 with a 10-3-2 record, including four-straight 1-0 victories to win its first-ever Concorde District title.
“Winning Oakton’s first girls soccer Concorde District title was a thrill for me as a coach. The district is packed with talented individuals and even more talented teams so to come out on top was a real accomplishment,” Davenport said. “Oakton has created a tradition of winners and strong athletics, and we’re eager to be the girls soccer team that would add to that tradition. I enjoyed watching and helping my young athletes put together such an exciting and gutsy tournament. As a coach, I could not be more proud of my girls. They came together, despite an onslaught of injuries, and accomplished a shared goal.”
Before its victory over Westfield in the finals, Davenport had asked her players to meet her in the gym after practice. When she walked in, the girls were all smiling. They knew the coach was there to have them reflect on what a District title would mean to the team.
“I want the girls to have fun and compete in every game, and I try to prepare them in every way that I can help them,” Davenport said. “This season I began talking to my girls about ‘life lessons.’ They are often discussed with some humor, but I want my team to see how talented they are and how exciting it is to represent Oakton High School. It is important to me to challenge the girls every day. I want to push them to grow as individuals, student-athletes, young women, and a team.”
Looking ahead to the regional tournament, Davenport likes what she’s seeing from her players and believes they have the makeup to go far.
“I am excited for the regional tournament because it is another opportunity for us to test our abilities against some great teams,” she said. “The region is so talented that it’s hard to name any one team that poses the biggest threat. I really think anyone can pull out an upset on any given night, and because of that we are going to stay focused on one game at a time. We are going to stay in the moment and work to play our best every time we step out onto the field.”