After Helping Georgetown Soccer Make NCAA Final 16, PHS Alumna Lis Stars for Real Central NJ in Debut Season
CENTRAL ROLE: Devon Lis controls the ball in action this summer for Real Central New Jersey during its inaugural season in the Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL). Lis, a former Princeton High girls’ soccer standout and a member of the Georgetown University women’s program, helped Real Central NJ make the WPSL Metropolitan South Division title game. (Photo by Jeremy Ryan, provided courtesy of Real Central New Jersey)
By Bill Alden
After her junior season for the Georgetown University women’s soccer team was moved to this spring from last fall due to COVID-19 concerns, Devon Lis has been making up for lost time.
Lis, a former Princeton High girls’ soccer standout, helped Georgetown thrive despite the delay as the Hoyas went 12-0-2, winning the Big East tournament and advancing to the Round of 16 in the NCAA tourney where they fell to TCU in early May on penalty kicks after the foes had tied at 1-1 through 90 minutes of regulation and 20 minutes of overtime.
Weeks later, defensive midfielder Lis was back on the pitch, competing locally for Real Central New Jersey as it kicked off its inaugural season in the Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL).
“It is great to be able to go right from being in the NCAA tournament to already being able to practice at a local place with high quality level players,” said Lis. “I haven’t had to transition that much.”
Playing this spring did require a transition for Lis. “It was definitely different because we started out with it being so cold out in January and February; normally our season we start out going back in August and it is super-hot in the summer time,” said Lis.
“It was different energy going in. We realized this season was different just because it was in the spring and with all of the testing going on in the bubble where we could just see each other. There were a lot of things that were different and it just took us all being a unit and saying we are going to take anything that comes our way and handle it the best we can. I think we were really able to do that to be successful.”
While things were different, Lis found herself getting into a normal routine.
“It was incredible to be with my team and to be back with the program and just to have more of a schedule,” said Lis.
“Soccer really keeps me going, it keeps my days moving. It was amazing to realize why I love soccer so much. Everyone kind of lost sight of things during COVID. To be able to play at Georgetown, I am so fortunate that they let us have a spring season.”
Hitting the pitch for the season opener against George Mason on February 25 was a special moment for Lis.
“Everyone just wanted to go out and play,” said Lis. “The reason we practice so hard is for the games, playing together, and all working toward a common goal. In the first game, there were definitely some jitters but only in the best way possible.”
Overcoming jitters, the 5’9 Lis established herself as a key performer at defensive midfield for the Hoyas, starting all 14 games this spring.
“My coach [Dave Nolan] does a good job when you are younger, shaping you into a player, giving you confidence and giving you a few minutes in order to be able to start for the team and have more of a role as you do get older,” said Lis, who made five appearances as a freshman in 2018 and played in 19 games as a sophomore with one start.
“So coming into this season I was so excited. I knew that I wanted to start and have a big role on the team. Being able to do that with my best friends and to be successful and continue to win was great. Being able to win the Big East, I was really proud of the whole team.”
The Hoyas made things exciting in winning the Big East tournament, topping Creighton 2-1 in overtime in the semifinal and then edging Butler 2-1 in overtime in the final.
“We had some crazy, crazy wins; we had players coming up big, scoring in overtime and we had people making penalty kicks in the last few minutes of the game,” recalled Lis.
“It took everyone. It took big moments from players at big times. We just had that belief that we were each going to give it our all as we each had done all season. If things had not gone our way, we would have gone out of the game knowing we had given our heart and soul. Being able to get those two wins, it was an unforgettable season in many ways.”
Facing South Carolina in the second round of the NCAA tournament, Georgetown showed its heart again, pulling out a 1-0 win with a goal in the last minute of regulation.
“Playing teams like South Carolina in the NCAA tournament gives us an opportunity to compete with a team that we normally wouldn’t know how we would stack up against,” said Lis.
“It was a new team to us, we had never played them before. It is such a well-known program as well. We had the same nerves and same excitement going into that game and we held strong. It just shows the drive and dedication of our team to do the best we can.”
The drive for a national title ended with the heartbreaking loss to TCU in the Sweet 16.
“Going into PKs and then having a thunderstorm in the middle of the PKs, I think is something that no one else in their life will experience again,” said Lis.
“That is what sticks out the most. We obviously completed to the last minute. I am proud of every girl who took a PK. It takes strength to do that. In moments like that, it just comes down to luck a little bit. It was a tough loss, it could have gone either way at any moment.”
Looking ahead to her senior season this fall, Lis believes the defeat to TCU will help spur the Hoyas to new heights.
“We know our potential,” said Lis. “We know having a regular season and now going into the preseason that we are eager to go even farther and to continue to prove ourselves in the Big East. Every year is a new way to re-show our talent, commitment, and dedication.”
This summer, Lis has displayed her dedication to the game by joining Real Central NJ as it kicked off action in the WPSL.
“I went to a tryout during the winter,” said Lis, who learned about the program through one of her assistant coaches at Georgetown.
“I wanted to get a feel for the team, I wanted to meet the coaches. Once I got a feel for it, I ended up going to the tryout. I really clicked with the coaches, I was in contact with them and then decided that due to how close it is to me, due to the coaches and due to other girls I knew that were on the team, it would be the best fit for me this summer.”
Playing for Real Central NJ proved to be a very good fit for Lis. “I feel really lucky and fortunate to have this team so close to home but also to have girls that I have played with since my club days like Emma Davis, who plays for Princeton,” said Lis of the squad which practiced at the Twin Pines Fields in Pennington and played its home games at the Mercer County Community College turf field.
“A couple of the other Princeton girls are living local and they are also on the team. We have played side by side together since many years back so I do have that comfort level with quite a few girls on the team.”
The team ended up doing very well, reaching the WPSL Metropolitan South Division title game where it fell 5-1 to the NJ/NY Gotham Reserves.
“We are all very excited to be in the playoffs, being a new team in general and being able to get one of this spots is something that we are all very proud of,” said Lis of the squad which topped Match Fit Academy 2-0 in a semifinal contest shortened due to thunderstorms.
“We practice hard during the week and we show up to the games. We have grown as we continue to play together. I think the first thing is always to compete but to also have fun and realize that this is a summer program. We are playing at such a high level and we are also doing this because of a love of the sport.”
With Georgetown starting preseason training in early August, Lis is primed to take things to a higher level in her final college campaign.
“I have gotten a lot of repetition with touches, the competition has been very consistent and it hasn’t dropped since college,” said Lis, who has also been busy off the field this summer doing an investment banking internship for Citibank.
“That has been good for me to maintain things at such a high level. I am just focusing on staying in game fitness. We are going into preseason and fitness is always so important. Being able to play with a group of girls and working on my vision and my communication are things I can’t do individually by myself. It has been awesome for me to do this summer.”