April 13, 2017
CHARLOTTESVILLE -- As her first season under a new coaching staff enters its final stretch, University of Virginia softball player Allison Davis is thankful it won't be her last.
The feeling is mutual.
"We're really glad we get to keep her around a little bit," head coach Joanna Hardin said.
Davis, a junior from Northern Virginia, leads the Cavaliers with a .336 batting average, and she's belted seven doubles, four triples and five home runs.
"She's a great softball player," Hardin said. "She plays outfield. She can pitch. Honestly, she's athletic enough that we could probably put her in the infield. She can hit for power, and she can hit for average. She can run.
"She can do it all. But I think the thing that's clutch for us is that Allison is so studious in the classroom. She's so focused. She just epitomizes what we're trying to build here. She's low key: come in, go to work, do my job, build, invest."
When Davis, as a standout at Oakton High School, committed to the Wahoos, their head coach was Eileen Schmidt. By the time Davis arrived in Charlottesville, however, Blake Miller had taken over the program, and she played for him in 2015 and '16.
"I'm very happy I get two years with them," Davis said. "I'm very grateful for that. I wish it was four years, but I'll take the two."
In 2015, the Cavaliers finished 16-40 overall and 4-20 in ACC play. They improved those records last year to 18-33 and 7-14. Heading into their weekend series with ACC foe Georgia Tech (12-28, 5-10), the `Hoos are 14-28 overall and 3-12 in conference play.
The teams' three games at The Park will start at 6 p.m. Friday, 1 p.m. Saturday and noon Sunday, respectively.
"They're fantastic," Davis said of UVA's new coaches. "I can't even express the difference in how we play and how we are as a team, but they're really good about teaching us to compete and really emphasizing core values over results, and even just teaching us all the little details of the game.
"I feel like I'm more a student of the game, not just a player. So it's really great just to see the evolution with all the girls, how far we've come, even if the results don't necessarily reflect that. It's been a good change in a really positive direction.
"There's been a lot of change, and so handling all of that change was difficult at first, but Coach Jo and her staff are very big on focusing on laying that foundation for future teams and honoring people who came before us. So it's more about what we're building and our attitudes and our mindset, rather than, `OK, we have to get these results, we have to win.' "
Davis does not shy away from challenges. In addition to playing softball, she's a student in UVA's renowned McIntire School of Commerce, where she's concentrating on management, marketing and entrepreneurship.
"Through the years I've developed a pretty good system for time management, I would say," Davis said. "I always write things down so I don't forget them. But it is challenging. There are times when I have to make sacrifices here or there, depending on what is my top priority at the time. I have to roll with the punches.
"This past fall -- and I'm sure a bunch of the other athletes in Comm would agree with this -- was probably the toughest semester, just because there was a lot of group work, and Comm did not let up on us. They knew we were athletes and they expected the best from us, just like they do all the other students."
On the diamond, Davis' versatility has helped her become one of the ACC's top players. In 2015, when she hit .325 with nine homers, she started all 56 games: 38 at shortstop, 12 at second base and six at pitcher.
In 2016, when she hit .293 and made the all-conference second team, she started 42 games in center field, two at pitcher and one in right field. This season, the 5-7 Davis has been used in left field and as a relief pitcher.
Davis embodies, Hardin said, everything the Cavaliers' coaches want in their players.
"If you could have an entire team of Allison Davises, it would be so much fun," Hardin said. "And so for us what's really exciting is that she gets to be our leader next year. And it'll be a challenge for her. She's not super outgoing. She's great, she's into the games, she cares about her teammates, but I think stepping into a leadership role where she may have to have some crucial conversations will be good for her. It's a different style for her."
That Davis would become a Wahoo was not inevitable. Her father, Randy, and one of her uncles attended Virginia Tech, and the Hokies' softball staff recruited Davis. But UVA appealed to her more academically, and she established a strong connection with Schmidt.
Her father's two brothers ultimately ended up at UVA: one as an engineering professor and the other as a graduate student. Her dad?
"He'll joke, `Yeah, I'll come here and cheer for you, but I always have the Hokies in my heart,' " Davis said, smiling. "It's a tough rivalry, but overall I thought UVA was a better fit for me."
Between her athletic and academic obligations, Davis has little free time. But she enjoys volunteering with her teammates at Meriwether Lewis Elementary School, and she has participated in the Women's Business Forum at McIntire. She's also been involved with A.C.E. (Athletes Committed to Communication and Education), a UVA program that helps area schools, and she hopes to devote more time to that service project in 2017-18.
Many undergraduates are unsure about the career path they'd like to follow after leaving UVA. Not Davis. She wants to work for the professional women's softball league, National Pro Fastpitch.
"I want to stay in the sport, and I want to help build that up and make it successful with the business background that I'm coming out with," Davis said. "Eventually I want to be sort of up in the top there helping run the business side of things."
Don't bet against her.
"She has her head on straight, that kid," Hardin said. "She could absolutely run the league.
"She's focused. She's driven. She's also the epitome of someone who's worked her way to be where she is. Her achievements are really a result of her just busting her tail and working really hard."
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A 1985 graduate of UVA, White worked at the Richmond Times-Dispatch until July 2009. He was honored six times as the state's Sportswriter of the Year.
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