After a memorable youth, high school and college career in Southern California, Savannah DeMelo made her professional debut at home Sunday.
DeMelo, who played at St. Joseph High in Lakewood and USC, was on the field for all 90 minutes as Racing Louisville FC defeated Angel City FC 3-1 Sunday.
“It felt good to be home and even better to get the win,” said DeMelo, who was selected fourth overall by Racing Louisville FC in the 2022 NWSL draft. “It was awesome. I love having my family being able to watch me in person.”
Having also played with the Beach FC club soccer team, DeMelo had a lot of people among the 22,000 at the Banc of California Stadium rooting for her.
“I probably had close to 100,” she said of people attending. “A lot of the kids (from Beach FC) came, a lot of my former teammates are coaches now, so they brought their kids and I had a lot of family, too.”
DeMelo was four-year varsity midfielder at St. Joseph, where she led the Jesters to the CIF Southern Section Division 3 finals in 2014. She made her way to USC in 2017 and was a member of the 2016 and 2018 U.S. U-20 World Cup teams.
In 2019, she sat out her junior season due to an Achilles injury, but came back to play 14 games during 2020 and 20 in 2021. She finished her career at USC with 75 appearances.
“It definitely was more mentally exhausting than I think physically,” she said of the recovery. “I had good people around me, I just stayed positive and I’m super happy I did because I’m happy where I’m at and looking to get better every game.”
DeMelo, 24, has played in all 21 games this season for Racing Louisville, scoring four goals with an assist. She also entered the week leading the league in fouls won and chances created. She earned Best XI honors in May and Rookie of the Month honors in July.
“It’s definitely been a roller coaster,” she said of the season. “It’s not easy coming into a great professional league like the NWSL, but I’ve had great staff and teammates that have helped me along the way. We have one more game left, so we’re just going to give all we’ve got.”
The biggest challenge has been adjusting to the pro game.
“The physicality and the speed of play has been a lot faster, but I’ve been getting used to it,” she said.
Earlier this season, DeMelo received a call-up to the U.S. national team. And just this month, she signed a contract extension through the 2025 season.
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“At first, I was doing it (playing soccer) for fun and it’s a fun hobby,” she said of her younger playing days. “As I started getting called into (youth) national team camps and getting looked at by college coaches, me and my dad were like, this is something you could do for the rest of your life. It’s been a great adventure and I can’t wait for more.”
Now, she’s also becoming a role model for the youth currently at Beach FC.
“I hope they can see that it’s attainable,” she said of becoming a pro. “If they work hard and do what they need to do, they can also be in these shoes and I’m just glad I can be a role model for them and I lead by example.”