Morgan Deveney is the prime example of a diamond in the rough. Deveney, 17, plays center and is the co-captain of the Hernando Lacrosse Club girls' varsity squad. The Crusaders are in their inaugural season and aren't even playing a full schedule until next season. However, much of the team's limited success goes to Deveney. When the idea of a girls' program came to HLC director Greg Longo, he held several field days at Veteran's Park in Spring Hill to drum up interest. Deveney attended one of those days in September, not going unnoticed.
Longo had been attempting to persuade Oti van der Veken to coach the team, but it wasn't until van der Veken saw Deveney's skills that September day that she decided to join the effort.
"I absolutely knew within 15 minutes of seeing her that not only would she be the best player on the team, but she would be someone (college) scouts would be looking at," van der Veken said. "She is a natural talent."
While all but two girls on the Crusaders had never picked up a lacrosse stick, Deveney had four years of experience before she moved to Florida from Philadelphia in 2008, where she was a captain for her team.
Since then, Deveney has come a long way. There is a lot of pressure involved in being the only experienced player on a team, especially when you are as good as she is. Coaches and West Florida Lacrosse League officials have pointed how far she can go.
Such as Cardinal Mooney coach Paula Krupa, a key member of the U.S. Lacrosse program.
"Every coach has something to say about Morgan once they see her play," van der Veken said. "(Krupa) went out of her way to personally talk with her about what she needed to do to be a completely unstoppable player."
The Crusaders, playing mostly scrimmages, have posted a 4-4 record against league opponents. In a 14-8 victory against Cardinal Mooney last week, Deveney scored eight goals, giving her 34 this season. As a junior, she has another year to amass statistics.
Those around her don't think the pressure will get to Deveney. Some players love the attention, and she is one of those athletes. Though on a team that relies on her to bear the brunt of the offense, she has time to work on the intricacies of her game.
"It's still hard for me to shoot with my left hand," Deveney said. "I work on it all the time, and things like that motivate me a lot."
The club was hoping to spark some interest in lacrosse locally when the organization founded a girls' program. There was no expectation of having a star like Deveney to lean on and highlight to exhibit what kind of success the sport can provide.
However, that's how things have turned out. With the Springstead junior primed for another season, there is no telling just how much this venture and team can grow.
Either way, Deveney will be the face of the Crusaders.
"The other girls on the team look up to her, and she knows that," van der Veken said. "She has really blossomed this season."
Submit feedback, story ideas to community firstname.lastname@example.org.