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SANDY — Mark Davis' playing and coaching career at BYU-Hawaii was a dream in the paradise of the islands.
But he's excited to be coming home.
The Copper Hills graduate and former Real Salt Lake Women's assistant has been named the coach of the RSL Women's team for the 2016 season, the semi-professional women's affiliate of Real Salt Lake announced this week.
"I'm really excited about it. I feel really blessed and humbled to take over this team," Davis told KSL.com. "It's been a great run. I'm really excited for the opportunity I had at BYU-Hawaii, and all the good people who gave me the opportunity to coach there."
Davis served as an assistant coach at RSL Women in 2015 to Jeff Ginn, who has taken a larger role with the third-division RSL affiliate Real Monarchs. The club went on to win the 2015 WPSL Elite division title, and plans to move to the newly formed United Women's Soccer League for its inaugural season.
The new league, which was introduced as the second division of North American women's soccer behind the National Women's Soccer League, comes after longtime women's amateur league the W-League folded following the 2015 season. UWS will be a pro-am league, with eight teams that include several former WPSL and W-League standout organizations like the New York Magic, Long Island Roughriders and New England Mutiny.
"The WPSL has been a great home for us, but it's been hard in the West for travel," Davis said. "This new league fits us really well with eight conference games, and the overall quality will be extremely hard. I think everyone within UWS is really committed."
RSL Women will play in the UWS Western Division alongside the Houston Aces, Denver Pride, Colorado Storm and Santa Clarita Blue Heat.
Davis hopes the new league and a new coaching staff will help raise the level of RSL Women, who have openly campaigned to be considered for NWSL expansion. The top-tier professional women's soccer league currently has 10 teams with the expansion of the Orlando Pride that includes a number of allocated players from the Unites States, Canadian and Mexican national teams.
"We hope to raise the level all-around, from everything," Davis said. "The coaches in the past did a phenomenal job, and I hope to raise the level of women's soccer in the state of Utah, and I'm really excited about this opportunity."
Davis was named the head men's soccer coach at BYU-Hawaii in 2013, a position he filled until the university phased out the athletic department this past season. Later that year, he was announced as the head women's soccer coach at the Laie, Hawaii, school.
A former player at Iowa Western College and BYU-Hawaii, Davis led the Seasiders to a 15-8-9 record in his tenure, including a 9-3-4 mark in his first season as head coach — the best season in program history at BYU-Hawaii. Under the 2013 PacWest coach of the year, the Seasiders won 74 percent of their matches.
After graduating from BYU-Hawaii in 2011, Davis went on to receive a master's in coaching and athletic administration from Concordia University-Irvine in 2014. He and his wife Natalie are the parents of two sons.
"I want to establish a culture where every time someone plays us, they know who we are, and they know what we are about," Davis said. "It's similar to Real Salt Lake — they had the 4-4-2, the diamond, and the culture is strong. I want to establish a culture of Real Salt Lake's women's team. I want the fans to feel that 'the team is the star.' There's a reason why Real Salt Lake has had the success they've had; the culture is strong, and it's what I want to establish here."