“Life is complicated. Life is going to throw all kinds of obstacles in your way. All I can tell you is what works for me: be true to yourself, don’t do fake, and above all else, keep on working, because that’s what will take you where you want to go.”
That advice from US Women’s National Team player Carli Lloyd is good for anyone, but for recent Litchfield grad Devan Morgan, it’s more of a description of what she’s done than a how-to for what she needs to do.
Morgan’s work ethic, leadership and skill have shone through in the classroom and on the soccer field over the last four years and now, she will have the opportunity to continue playing the game she loves at the next level.
On Thursday, June 11, Morgan signed her letter of intent to play soccer for Illinois College next year.
“I think that the school is really good and I really liked the facilities for sports,” Morgan said of her decision to play at IC.
While Morgan will be getting a quality education over the next four years, the Jacksonville-based college is getting a difference maker, on the field and off.
Morgan’s overall work ethic and athleticism has allowed her to excel at volleyball, where she was a four-year letter winner and the team’s MVP, but her passion has always been on the pitch.
While the spotlight often shines on the goal scorers, Morgan has been integral to Litchfield’s soccer success the past three years and would have been a three-year captain had it not been for COVID-19.
The Panthers collected 32 wins and two regional championships in Morgan’s first three high school seasons, improving their goals against average each year.
In 2017, Litchfield allowed 2.5 goals per game, not a problem since they were averaging 4.26 per contest, but soon found out they would need to be stingier in the back if they were to continue the success that had resulted in five straight regional titles.
In 2018, Morgan and company held opponents to 1.67 goals per game, with Litchfield making it to the regional championship before falling to Carlinville in the title game.
Last year, the Panthers returned to the championship game and came away with their sixth title in seven years. Again the defense upped their game, allowing just 1.18 goals per game (27 goals in 19 games) while scoring 46.
Morgan wasn’t just an asset in stopping the attack though, she was key in creating it. She led the team in points by a defender all three years and had the innate ability to see plays develop before the opposing defense could get into place.
“I like being able to see the entire field and being able to make plays because of it,” Morgan said of her spot on the back line.
“Devan’s a lockdown defender who sees the field well and gets our transition game started, while also being able to contribute on offense,” said Jordan Morgan, Devan’s twin sister and the recipient of many of those breakaway passes. “She’s been a leader on every team we’ve been on.”
Whether it’s simply familiarity from playing together for literally all their lives or some sort of magical sibling mind-meld, the Morgans have been a phenomenal combo for the Panthers and will have four more years to sharpen that skill with Jordan also signing to play for IC.
The pair weren’t planning to attend the same college, but ultimately, the opportunity to play on the same field for four more years was too good to ignore.
“It’s nice to know that I’ll always have a close relationship with someone on the team. It’s a familiar face. There is always someone to go back to,” Morgan said of the opportunity to play with her sister. “I always know I have Jordan’s support, no matter what I do.”
Morgan’s support system off the field also includes her parents, DJ and Robin, who have spent countless hours driving to practices and games for both Litchfield High School and Impact FC, the club team that DJ coaches and Devan and Jordan play on.
“They’ve helped a lot, especially with my dad being my coach,” said Jordan, who was her Impact team’s defensive player of the year. “I’d like to thank Erik Thornton, too, for being my coach in my younger years and helping to shape me into the player I am today.”
The player she is today, will be one that should help the Lady Blues on the defensive end. Illinois College allowed 50 or more goals in each of the last three seasons, with goals against averages of 2.78 in 2019, 3.82 in 2018 and 2.84 in 2017. Last year was Coach Hunter Gray’s first year at the helm of the team though, and with 25 years of coaching experience and 11 freshmen coming in the fall, hopes for a turn around are high.
“It was really fun. I love all of the girls,” said Morgan, who got a chance to play with some of the incoming freshman recently. “They seemed really nice and easy to get along with. I’m super excited for the season.”
Regardless of her impact on the field though, Morgan is already poised for success off of it. Ranked sixth in her class, Morgan won the Layton Pezold Memorial Scholarship, Mark Sypherd Spirit Award and the Faith Hartzell Memorial Scholarship, all of which award not only intelligence and athleticism, but character as well.
It shouldn’t be any surprise that Morgan will be continuing her education in a field that helps people as well.
“I was going to do the nursing track that they have, but I was only going to be able to stay on campus two years, then I would have to go to a different nursing school. I could have played soccer, but it would have been really hard to do both,” said Morgan, who will major in biology and continue to pursue a career in nursing.
No matter what the next four years brings in the classroom and on the pitch, odds are that Morgan’s work ethic and leadership will take her wherever she wants to go.’