Jennie Marshall grew up being everyone's first pick, regardless of whether it was a school-yard soccer game or a competitive age-group team.
Pick Jennie and you're sure to win. Her friends in second grade knew that, and coaches soon picked up on it, as well.
Speed and strength separated Marshall from other girls, allowing her to camouflage the weakest part of the game.
That was enough, too, until Marshall stepped on the field at BYU two years ago and realized her average dribbling skills would have to improve.
"I had all these more experienced, talented forwards playing in front of me," said Marshall, the former Beyer High star and The Bee's Stanislaus District Player of the Year in 2007 and '08. "Some of them were much better dribblers."
Marshall felt that becoming a better dribbler would earn her more playing time, so she devised a plan to do just that. Her workouts emphasized using both feet, keeping the ball under control as she ran and being able to stop and shoot.
It's paying off: Marshall has six goals and undefeated BYU (6-0-1) is No. 11 in the Soccer Times College Coaches poll. BYU beat nationally ranked Washington State and Northwestern last week, with Marshall providing three goals.
She was runner-up as Mountain West Conference Player of the Week and two national soccer publications put her on their Team of the Week.
Marshall played in all 24 of the Cougars' games her freshman and sophomore seasons, often replacing a fatigued forward during the second half.
But Marshall wanted more.
"Playing against defenders as strong and fast as me, maybe stronger and faster, I had to change my plan," said Marshall, who had 53 goals in 27 matches her final year at Beyer. "The old plan wasn't going to work anymore; not here."
As her dribbling improved, so did her minutes. This fall, though, she had an epiphany.
"I began working on different styles of play, mixing up my game to create more scoring opportunities," she said.
Marshall realized she could exploit her power in a different way. Because she was so dominant as a teenager, she was able to work her way into the box for point-blank shots.
That's more difficult in college, where coaches build defenses to silence scorers such as Marshall. She's overcome some schemes by challenging the defense with her dribble, forcing her defender to take a step back, then taking advantage of the opening to shoot.
"I've been able to extend my game with long-range shots, and that's something I hadn't worked on before," she said.
Practicing long-range shots has become a staple, as she repeatedly shoots from all angles of the goal box and increases her ability to tuck the ball in the corner of the goal.
Practice, practice, practice.
That was key, according to Marshall, who plays on the front line in a 4-3-3 alignment.
"You work on it so often it feels natural, so when you get an opportunity in a game you take it quickly," she said. "It surprises people. They expect you to keep coming, but you pull up and shoot. If I learned anything about the college game, it's to take advantage of any scoring opportunity."
Taking more long-distance shots was just one of the decisions Marshall made this fall. She decided to major in math education, with the idea of becoming a high school teacher.
"Coming to BYU has been a dream of mine since I was 4," said Marshall, noting her parents and brother also attended the school. "It's been very rewarding, not just the extra minutes on the field, but the entire college experience."
Video interview with Marshall during her days at Beyer