The first time Mark Wise saw Shannon Flower play goalkeeper, it was part of a demonstration at a girls soccer coaches clinic in the spring of 2009.
"I'm sure I was not the only coach there whose jaw was dropping," said Wise, who -- unbeknownst to him -- was weeks away from becoming Flower's coach at Upper Arlington High School after eight years at Reynoldsburg (2001-08). "I could not believe how focused she was and how mature she was. Everybody knew she was going to Indiana (University to play soccer), but I didn't know she wasn't a senior yet.
"I can honestly say that when Shannon played for me, I never had to worry about goalkeeping, ever."
Flower's coach at Indiana, Amy Berbary, had a less profound first meeting with Flower a few years earlier. At the time, Berbary was an assistant coach at the University of Dayton, and the two would not cross paths again for seven years, when Berbary became the Hoosiers' head coach after five seasons as an assistant at Auburn.
"(Flower) made all-state and we went to England with an all-star team," Berbary said. "When I came to Indiana, it was a case of, 'Where do we know each other from?' It was something how much she'd developed. She was mature and a leader back then, and I knew she'd be important to anything our team would do."
The Hoosiers had a season to remember in 2013, going 15-7-1 and setting season records for wins, goals (43) and assists (46). They were 6-5 in the Big Ten, placing fourth, before advancing to a semifinal in the conference tournament and losing to defending national champion North Carolina 4-0 in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Flower played every minute of all 23 games, recording nine shutouts. She made 87 saves, seventh all-time for a season in school history. Her 24 career wins are second most in school history, and her 11 career shutouts and 186 career saves each rank fourth.
"If you had told me last year we'd have that kind of season, I'd have laughed in your face," Flower said. "We had great players, but we couldn't get anything to work. (Berbary) held people accountable. We knew our roles and what was expected of us. If you didn't do your job, you were called out. The coaches were extremely straightforward with us, and it served us well."
Flower became a goalie at age 12, having previously played forward, and never looked back. Upper Arlington advanced to a Division I state semifinal in 2008, losing 3-0 to Cincinnati St. Ursula, and a regional final in Flower's senior season of 2009, in which UA lost to OCC-Central Division rival Dublin Coffman 2-1.
Flower started 11 games in goal as a freshman at Indiana in 2010, and played 14 games of her junior season before being sidelined by a concussion.
"A keeper has unique qualities. You almost have to be a little bit crazy," said Wise, who left UA after the 2013 season and now coaches the Columbus Eagles, an amateur women's soccer team that recently concluded its first season.
"You take shots that can come at you at 90 (mph), and sometimes fall on the ball as people are kicking at you. But Shannon was always solid as a rock. She's emotionally stable. She doesn't get shaken. She's just out there to do her job."
One of Flower's teammates at Indiana was Lara Ross, a defender who graduated from UA with Flower in 2010. Like Flower, Ross never came off the field last year.
Ross, who alternated between defender and midfielder in 2012 as a junior, finished with five career goals and played in 80 games, tied for third most in Indiana history.
"She was in charge of keeping our back line organized. She was just a rock," Flower said. "We didn't decide together to come to Indiana -- we made our decisions maybe a month apart -- but knowing each other as well as we did and playing together as long as we did made things that much easier."
Flower graduated from Indiana in May with a bachelor's degree in public affairs. She majored in environmental management with a minor in outdoor recreation, and is working this summer at the YMCA Hayo-Went-Ha Camp in Traverse City, Mich.
"I'm an outdoor leader up here," Flower said. "I hope to catch on with a bigger program that does three- or four-week trips around the world, maybe something like Outward Bound (an international organization that works to increase social skills and personal growth through outdoor expeditions). It's a lot of fun."