After being named to the Association of Collegiate Water Polo Coaches All-American second team last season, California Baptist University women’s water polo’s Kira O’Donell, sophomore behavioral science major and attacker, is off to a strong start in 2019.
In Week One of the season, O’Donell earned Gold Coast Conference Player of the Week honors with 10 points over four games that week. O’Donell notched five goals and three assists in a win over California State University, Northridge, who was ranked 18th in the nation at the time.
“Achieving awards such as those affirms the hard work I have put into my sport because the recognition derives from a platform larger than my inner circle,” O’Donell said.
O’Donell is building upon her success from her freshman season in 2018 when she was named GCC Newcomer of the Year and earned her first GCC Player of the Week Award as a freshman.
“I believe the season (thus far) has been successful for me because of having a year of collegiate experience under my belt now, along with the manner in which my teammates encourage and push me to play to my potential every game,” O’Donell said.
For Jonathan Miller, head coach of women’s water polo, O’Donell’s success is impressive considering how rare it is to have a freshman lead the team in scoring.
“Sometimes you worry about a player having a ‘sophomore slump’ after such a great first year because now teams know who she is and are making her a focus of their defensive game plans,” Miller said. “However, Kira is currently on pace to even surpass her production from last year and is doing it more efficiently, as well.”
Miller said O’Donell’s ability to impact the game despite opponents’ attempts to slow her down has stood out.
“I think the most impressive thing about her is her ability to stay poised no matter what the situation, which is a really important skill to learn,” Miller said. “It really takes a lot for a team to get her off her game and she seems to thrive in tough situations.”
CBU has faced eight ranked teams already this season in one of its toughest nonconference schedules. O’Donell said she believes those matches help prepare the team for conference matchups later in the season.
“The team is using the nonconference competitions to prepare for our conference schedule by maintaining the mindset that each game is just as important as any conference game,” O’Donell said. “We are learning from each game, which is imperative because the experience will ultimately aid us exponentially when we begin to play the teams in our conference.”
The Lancers are currently 5-7 this season and will play in two more invitational tournaments before opening GCC play with a home match against Santa Clara March 8 and hosting the Lancer Joust.