BATESVILLE — Katie Hartman has told Denise Davalos how much she enjoys watching her play soccer. Batesville’s coach has always been impressed with Davalos’ game and called her an outstanding player.
“Her foot skills are – how do I describe it? – they’re just unbelievable and above and beyond what anybody in our conference is capable of,” Hartman said. “She’s really technical on the ball and it makes her a fun player to watch, but it also makes her a successful player.”
Davalos gives Hartman a lot of credit to helping her get to where she is today. The Batesville senior will continue playing soccer in college, signing with Indiana University East, an NAIA school in Richmond.
Davalos joined Batesville’s varsity roster as a freshman, but she wasn’t able to play for the Bulldogs her junior year after getting in trouble for something outside of school. She continued playing travel soccer, with Hartman constantly encouraging her to come back even stronger.
“I stuck with the mentality of working on myself individually, on and off the field,” Davalos said. “Hartman was a big part of that. (Her support) really made me want to come back and play even harder than I ever have.”
Davalos returned to the Bulldogs this past fall for her senior season. The midfielder scored a team-high eight goals, while tying for the most assists with six. She earned all-conference honors and was named third team all-state.
In addition to Hartman’s encouragement and support, Davalos also gave credit to her mother, Lorena Blanco.
“I want to thank my mom for putting up with me though all the setbacks we had and making me feel like the best person,” Davalos said. “Even if I didn’t win a game, she would always be there to tell me how good I did or what I needed to work on, just really setting me straight.”
Soccer has always been Davalos’ favorite sport. She began playing when she was 4.
Making it official and signing with IU East is exciting, but the move will also be difficult.
“It’s kind of bittersweet just because I’ve been waiting my whole life to play in college. That’s all I’ve been working to do,” Davalos said. “But leaving my family and friends is going to suck.”
Davalos gives credit to her coaches for helping her develop into a standout player. She also said her father, Ildefonso Davalos, and oldest brother, Luis, taught her a lot.
She’s played for multiple travel teams, including for SEI, a team in Columbus and for the past four years, Indy Premier. She thanked Indy Premier coach Kenrick Ramirez for teaching her a lot about soccer and helping improve her soccer IQ.
Ramirez said it’s been a pleasure working with Davalos.
“She can be a shy kid outside of the field,” he said, “but on the field her personality traits include a strong work ethic, which coupled with her skill and understanding of the game, helps her be successful.”
It was while playing for Indy Premier that IU East coach Shane Meredith noticed Davalos. He’s excited to have her join the Red Wolves.
“I just love that she has the ability to play a number of positions on the field, from wing back to more attacking, higher-sitting positions,” Meredith said. “This versatility is gonna help her get on the field quicker and show the attributes that made us interested in her over a year ago.”
Davalos loves playing midfield, particularly when she can take a defensive mindset.
Her favorite defensive play came during her freshman or sophomore year when she made a slide tackle.
“I had no idea how I did it, but it was the most satisfying thing I’ve ever done playing soccer,” Davalos said. “Ever since then that’s my favorite thing to do. Tracking back and using all the adrenaline to get back is amazing for me.”
Fellow senior Olive Cerniglia, who was the Bulldogs’ goalkeeper, called Davalos a great player who you could trust when the ball was at her feet.
“She was really good at controlling the ball and getting around the defense,” Cerniglia said. “But she could also slide tackle like crazy. She would always come out of nowhere and save the day with an awesome tackle.”
Davalos’ favorite offensive play came during her sophomore year in sectionals against Lawrenceburg. The Bulldogs led 2-1 late in the game when a teammate got fouled just outside the box. Davalos was known for having a knack of scoring goals off free kicks, which is what she did by drilling a shot over the defensive wall and past the goalkeepers’ hands.
“It was the perfect touch of ball and it went perfectly right into the goal,” she said.
Getting locked in mentally on game day is one of Davalos’ favorite aspects of playing soccer. She also enjoys being part of a team and the bonds shared with teammates, who basically become your best friends.
Cerniglia said Davalos will thrive in college.
“She is going to stand out no matter where goes,” Cerniglia said. “She loves the sport.”
Davalos wants to study Spanish and secondary education. Spanish is her first language, and she hopes to become a Spanish teacher and coach after graduating college.
When she’s not busy playing soccer, Davalos enjoys drawing and going skateboarding. She likes listening to music and driving around.
Hartman challenged Davalos to take on more a vocal leadership role during her senior season. It wasn’t easy for her, but it was very rewarding.
The BHS coach has one more piece of advice for Davalos heading into the next level.
“Roll with this confidence she had her senior year,” Hartman said. “She can be shy at times and unsure of herself. She’s humble and doesn’t see how good she truly is and needs others around her to kind of make her believe in herself. She’s got what it takes as long as she believes it.”