Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

May 14, 2014

‘Boo’ saves for King’s Warriors

Keeping the opponents out

EAST RIVER — “Boo.” Just the word can produce pangs of fear, but Jon Davis’ nickname isn’t likely to scare opponents from his position on the pitch.

Nope, Davis will have to use his skills as a goalkeeper for the Southern West Virginia King’s Warriors to prevent soccer balls from finding their target in the net behind him.

“Sometimes it is nerve-whacking,” said Davis, who picked up the nickname “Boo” from his father after a cousin hit him on a finger with a hammer at age 2, and surgery was needed on what was deemed a youthful ‘boo-boo.’

“Sometimes you are like ‘Just put it on me, I am OK, I can handle it, I have got the Lord backing me up.’”

Davis is one of three goalkeepers who will be competing for playing time for the King’s Warriors, which will open its third season of existence — and first in Mercer County — on Friday against the South Carolina United Bantams at the East River Soccer Complex.

Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.

“I am really looking forward to the game,” said Davis, a native of Gastonia, N.C., and rising sophomore on the soccer team at North Carolina State.

Davis will compete for net time this summer with John Thomas, a product of Wayland Baptist in Texas, and Alex Guyer from Hastings College in Nebraska.

“I had to deal with that in the fall at N.C. State so it was good for me,” said Davis, whose Wolfpack were 8-5-4 last season. “It was good to learn how to compete and still love your brothers, which is what we are going to learn here.”

It’s not just Davis who faces the prospects of competition. King’s Warriors goalkeeper coach Andrew Dailey has to decide who will get the start in the net.

“From the couple of times I have got to work with him, (Jon) is a solid keeper,” Dailey said. “He has got strong hands, good technique, good agility’s, it is a tight battle right now between all three of them.

“The starting position is still wide open. It is going to be good this next couple of days, it is going to make a tough decision for us.”

All of them will see plenty of playing time during the 15-game schedule, which begins on Friday and ends in mid-July.

“All three are very, very good goalkeepers,” Dailey said. “They are going to push each other to get better this summer and they will push me to get better as a coach as well.”

Davis also played baseball and was part of a state championship golf team as a senior at Forestview High School in Gastonia, but starred as a multiple-award winner in his sport of choice for the Jaguars.

“I think it is just because it is a creative sport,” Davis said. “There is structure to it, but it is free flowing. It is not like basketball where it is free-flowing for 30 seconds, this is for 45 minutes.

“I think that is why, just the free flow.”

As is common with most soccer players, Davis didn’t just reserve his skills for high school ball. He was also a member of the North Meck Soccer Academy in Charlotte, N.C., and has also participated on several U.S. soccer clubs and was part of a pool of players for the U14 and U15 national teams.

No wonder Davis, who was recommended to King’s Warriors head coach Scott Reitnour by N.C. State soccer coach Kelly Findley, is excited to spend the summer playing soccer in Southern West Virginia, although this ‘travel’ team is unique from what he has experienced in the past.

“Not during the summer and not quite like this, but it is going to be great,”

 Davis said. “Just getting to meet some new people and hear their stories and invest time in them.

“I think we are all trying to find out who everyone else is, just figure everything out on our own. We have a few older guys that kind of show us the way, but it is ‘Hey, let’s figure it out, let’s get out of our shell’.”

The King’s Warriors, who are composed of 28 players from 11 different countries, are living in homes in nearby Hinton, and traveling 40 minutes to play their home games at East River.

“I love the mountains, I could live here,” Davis said. “I really like the town of Hinton, I like how the location is in a valley and the river is right next to it, I love this area, I love the mountains.”

Yet, it’s more than just soccer that drew Davis to Southern West Virginia. The King’s Warriors are also a ministry team, which plans to do outreach for God in the various communities they are in.

“I am really looking forward to going on my faith than anything,” Davis said. “Soccer is going to be great, I know I am going to be better when I come back in the fall, but it is going to be great to go out on my faith as well, that is what I am really looking forward to.”

The 5-foot-11, 185-pound Davis, who played behind talented goalkeeper Fabian Otte for the Wolfpack, is looking to use this experience on the pitch to improve, not only in the net, but away from the pitch.

“Playing time, it would be nice to get a lot of it, but if I go back to school in the fall as a better player and a better person, that is what I am looking forward to, just to get better.” Davis said.

“I would really love to take high balls higher, just be bigger and have a bigger presence and of course more consistent distribution, you can always be better.”

Much like a goalie in hockey, the goalkeeper in soccer is the last line of defense. Even though he’s not alone on that side of the field, Davis knows the blame is often pointed directly at the man in the net if a goal is scored.

“Consistency and just a really tough, headstrong attitude,” said Davis, of what it takes to be a successful goalkeeper. “Just the mental game is really important, you give up a goal, don’t get down, move on, there is nothing you can do.”

The King’s Warriors will make its local debut on Friday at East River. Davis hopes to see the bleachers filled with soccer fans, and the net he is protecting free of goals.

“Just come and see us,” Davis said. “We are guys who live in the community, we just live down the road, come see us play.”

—Contact Brian Woodson at bwoodson@ / Twitter @bdtwoodson.

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