Maurice Morton: From none to D1

As the Santa Monica College men's soccer team's season came to an end,three things came into sharp focus.

First, a 6-10-5 record would keep the blue and white out of the playoffs. Second, the Citrus Owls and their fans had anger issues and lastly, for a majority of the 15 sophomores on the team came the end of their collegiate soccer careers.

As the SMC spring semester started, the sophomores of the soccer team were transitioning into focusing heavily on academics and transferring based off of academic merit.

However, the captain of the blue and white, Maurice Morton, was preparing himself to continue his collegiate soccer career.

Morton signed his national letter of intent to transfer to Loyola Marymount University, a Division 1 soccer program, and is the first Corsair men's soccer player to sign with a D1 school since the rebirth of the program three years ago.

When Morton graduated from El Camino Real High School in Woodland Hills, California, he was only recruited by one school: Santa Monica College.

"When Mo first arrived here at SMC, he had the size to become a great center forward for us," head coach Tim Pierce said. "[He] had to come off the bench his entire freshman season."

After netting five goals off the bench his freshman year, Maurice was tasked with having to fill the role as the primary scorer for the Corsairs.

"During Mo's freshman year, he was forced to sit on the bench behind our leading goal scorer, Alessandro Canale," Pierce said.

The 6'3 Maurice scored a team leading 12 goals while also connecting with his other teammates for five assists. The 12 goals put him third in the Western State Conference in scoring.

"He has a natural finishing ability where he is calm and relaxed with the ball at his feet," Pierce, former two-time NCAA All-American and National Champion with the UCLA Bruins said.

After the season Maurice had, he was rewarded with a selection by coach Pierce to appear and represent SMC in a junior college sophomore showcase.

"As our captain he wasn't necessarily the most vocal leader, but he always lead by example," friend and fellow sophomore forward Duncan Bochicchio said.

Maurice selected to transfer and play for LMU amidst attention and being recruited by Cal State Los Angeles, UC San Diego as well as several National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics schools across the country.

However, LMU was his only D1 offer.

"My family loved the visit, I was offered a half scholarship, so the cost was good and soccer wise; I've always wanted to play for a Division 1 program," Morton said.

Maurice has been able to reap the benefits of having great perseverance and a hard working demeanor.

Pierce was effusive in his praise of Morton.

"it is huge when seeing how much Mo has developed, he looks like a different player. I give big kudos to our coaching staff as well Mo's work off the pitch."

Or as Bochicchio put it, "Maurice lives soccer, it truly is his life."

From Pierce's experience, he believes moving forward, Maurice needs to, "prepare for the physical side of the game more, be simple and quick with the ball and not to try and force anything. He will need to the let game come to him."

Morton will have the opportunity to grow at LMU as the Lions have eight players graduating including the starting center forward from this last season.

After talking with the coach at LMU, Maurice was given assurance that he will be able to compete for the newly open starting center forward position as soon as he gets there.

As Maurice is completing his last semester at SMC before venturing off to LMU, he offered advice for future student athletes that are debating taking the junior college athletics route.

"Junior College sports are a great platform to gain confidence and develop as a player," Morton said. "You are given a way to gain exposure while playing against better players who are bigger and more mature. Some of the players we played against were 26 years of age."

Now as Maurice is moving forward to play soccer at a higher level, there is a huge role to be filled for the Corsairs.

However, Coach Pierce is confident that someone on next year's edition will step up the way Morton did

With a large majority of the team finishing their sophomore seasons, some young players will have to try and step up to the role. International student Thomas Tranberg from Denmark might just have to take over goal scoring duties similar to how Maurice did in the previous season.

Pierce has a tough task ahead of him in regards to fielding a competitive team this next season. However, he has been assured that he can develop future division one soccer players similar to Maurice Morton.

However, for Morton, the challenge of a division one future depends heavily on how he uses what he learned at SMC.

Maurice has been given the opportunity to play on a division one team and an opportunity to achieve the accolades of the coach who taught him.

As Maurice stated, "Coach Pierce, he was the only coach that tried to recruit me out of high school. He also knows what it takes to play division one soccer."