Odds are few college athletes' careers go the way they envision them.
Sure, some end up close to what they expected. Then there's the other end of the spectrum when an athlete finishes at a different university than where they started. But every once in a while there's an athlete like Western Washington University goalkeeper Alyssa Beauchamp, who played the ultimate waiting game for a chance to crack the Vikings' starting lineup.
If a perfect definition of patience paying off exists, Beauchamp's story is it.
"Alyssa is a great story," said WWU women's soccer coach Travis Connell before the start of the season. "She is going to be an important player, and we are so fortunate to have her. This is a selfless act. She is putting her life on hold to come into a really challenging situation replacing one of the best players we've ever had in our program."
Beauchamp admitted her college narrative hasn't gone the way she expected. She never imagined a family death soon after she moved to Western would affect both her academics and on-field play, or that she would fall to the No. 4 keeper on WWU's depth chart, and she certainly never thought it would take six years to become the Vikings' starting keeper.
That's right, six.
Beauchamp didn't see an ounce of playing time during the 2008, '09, '10, '11 or '12 season. She redshirted early then fell victim to a logjam at goalkeeper. Beauchamp served as All-American Jamie Arthurs' understudy most recently, including last year when it appeared Beauchamp's WWU career would end without her getting a real shot.
"I've been waiting for a while," Beauchamp said during a phone interview. "I am taking full advantage of it and competing to the best of my ability. This is what I do and what I've done since I was a little kid playing at the highest level possible. It's been a really big deal to have my family come up and watch games."
Even when Western's deep postseason run ended last year, all indications suggested Connell would bring in a new keeper to replace Arthurs. Beauchamp was on pace to graduate before this year started, but while Connell was scouring the northwest for talent, he approached Beauchamp with a proposition.
NCAA Division II rules state a student-athlete must complete their four seasons of competition within the first 15 quarters of full-time enrollment. Beauchamp's redshirt year gave her a fifth year of eligibility. Connell said his keeper made a "selfless" act to earn a sixth, deciding to attend school part time, thus delaying graduation.
Beauchamp's decision has greatly benefitted the No. 2-ranked Vikings, and it's made quite an impression with Connell and her teammates.
"She could have graduated last year, but recruiting didn't go the way we wanted it to," Connell said. "It was a selfless act to put her life on hold, not just in the fall, but all of summer. Six months she put her life on hold to give the team the best chance to earn their goals. I think all the coaches and her teammates respect her for that."
Beauchamp's sacrifice was significant to those around her. To her, though, the choice to play a sixth season allowed her to imprint a more meaningful signature on her career. It also let Beauchamp focus on academics at a more comfortable rate.
And Beauchamp's on-field production has been second to none.
WWU has been dominant thus far. It owns a 10-0-0 record, touting a defense that's posted seven shutouts and surrendered a measly two goals.
The Vikings have arguably one of the best back lines in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, if not the entire nation, but Beauchamp has been an integral part of the defense's success.
Then there's the pressure Beauchamp was dealt after replacing Arthurs, if starting after five years of watching wasn't enough.
"There is always going to be that shot of Jamie doing so well, and that was a big deal," said Beauchamp of playing behind the now student-assistant coach. "I'm also her friend, so I was really proud of the success she had last year, and there was a little bit of pressure."
But Beauchamp is a seasoned veteran, and she's handled the pressure like one throughout the first half of the season.
"Her strongest attribute is how quick she is," Connell said. "She's a great shot stopper. She reads the game well and can make a lot of saves. She'll make spectacular saves that will inspire her teammates."
While Beauchamp's career hasn't gone as planned, the sixth-year senior's journey has helped mold her into the person she is today by teaching her an important lesson.
"I guess that maybe hard work pays off or that patience is a virtue," said Beauchamp of what she learned during her college career. "Being patient has worked out well for me, and it shows you that hard work will pay off."
And Beauchamp's last season just may be her most exciting, given Western's dominance so far.
Reach Andrew Lang at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-756-2862.
Reach ANDREW LANG at email@example.com or call ext. 862.