Athletes seeking to compete in college traditionally spend years honing the skills of their position for any hope of receiving a scholarship.
Land O' Lakes graduate Morgan Crescent's journey toward being Eckerd College's starting goalkeeper was winding, unorthodox and surprisingly short. She didn't limit herself to one sport growing up, starting with soccer and softball at age 6, adding volleyball as a seventh-grader and competing in high-level national wake boarding events while in middle and high school.
"I was one of those people who wasn't outstanding at any one sport, but was decent at almost everything, and that's why it was so hard to decide what I wanted to play" Crescent said.
When she did, Crescent opted for soccer, the first sport she competed in, but she didn't want to be a midfielder. She decided to be a goalkeeper - a position she had never played before her senior year of high school.
"I love the fact that there's so much pressure on you in net," said Crescent.
Crescent first thought volleyball would be her ticket to college.
"I got a late start in the club scene, and because of that I had a hard time getting noticed," Crescent said. "When coaches started talking to me they all said I was too short to be an outside hitter."
The 5-foot-9 Crescent caught the attention of Eckerd coach Danielle Fotopoulos, who is entering her fourth year leading the Tritons.
"The biggest thing was her athleticism," Fotopoulos said. "She was always a multi-sport athlete, but her personality is also very positive. That combined with the fact that she has an awesome family really made us want to make her part of our Eckerd family."
Crescent began her freshman season as the Division II program's backup, but made four starts near the end of the 2011 season.
"I sat a lot that first year, and that helped so I had time to learn," Crescent said. "It also made me work hard to get into the starting lineup."
She won the job in preseason, but the start of her sophomore campaign was rocky.
"The first game we lost 6-2, and that was a struggle," Crescent said. "I was bummed, and everyone was embarrassed. We worked hard, and the next game we lost 1-0 to Tampa, a really good team, and it was one of the best games I've played. After that I felt a lot more confident and it helped me get into a zone."
With Crescent in net, Eckerd responded with a 2-1 victory over Saint Leo University on Sept. 26 to snap a 46-game winless streak in Sunshine State Conference matchups. The 10-7-3 Tritons added two more conference wins to tie for fifth in the SSC after placing last in the nine-team league the previous six seasons. The Tritons finished above .500 for the first time since 2001.
Crescent posted a 1.10 goals-against average with 129 saves and a single-season program record seven shutouts, all of which earned her second-team all-SSC honors.
"We'd win some games where we were outshot 37-5, and Morgan played a huge role back there," Fotopoulos said. "The team also loves having her in net, and that's important for a team to have confidence in the goalkeeper."
Tribune correspondent Kyle LoJacono can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @Kyle_LoJacono.