BERKELEY - The California women's lacrosse team is two games into the 2014 season. The Golden Bears are 1-1 thus far and head to UC Davis to face the Aggies on Saturday, March 8, at noon. CalBears.com had a chance to sit down with one of the team captains, senior Marissa O'Meally and discuss the 2014 season and her time at Cal.
CalBears.com: How did it feel when you found out that you were going to be a team captain this year?
Marissa O'Meally: When I found out that I was going to be a team captain for the team this year I was filled with a mix of emotions. I felt everything from excited, to honored, to humbled, to grateful. Joining the team as a walk-on freshman year, this is not a position I originally saw myself in, but I am more than excited to be here! Especially this year, since the team is unlike anything we have had in the past - we are young, raw and have far more depth than ever before. Game-by-game we are in a great position to surprise teams, and I am honored to be able to help lead us each step of the way.
CB: How much more responsibility is added with being a team captain?
MO: There is definitely a lot more responsibility added while taking on the role of team captain. Luckily I get to share the job with Paige [Gasparino] and Gaby [Christman], which allows us to maintain balanced leadership. We all have such different personalities and complimenting perspectives so we are able to really address issues from all angles and lead in different ways.
CB: What are your postgraduate goals?
MO: This is a question that I've been getting a lot, and is probably my most dreaded one since I do not know! Job wise, I am still searching different options, but something I do know is that I plan on traveling with Chippy [Amelia Burke] and Paige before we get into the real world!
CB: How difficult has it been to juggle academics and athletics?
MO: Juggling academics and athletics is something I have dealt with my whole life, but it is definitely enhanced on both ends at the collegiate level. Although both areas are very demanding at a place like Cal, it helps that my teammates are so motivated in both areas so there is really no excuse to slack off. There is always someone either putting in extra work on the field, or going to the HPC to study. Being in that kind of environment helps me stay on track and on top of everything.
CB: Being a New York native, what was your first impression of California?
MO: Just about everything is different from New York, but I'm a-okay with that! The first things I noticed coming to California were that things move a little slower, there were not bagel stores or delis on every corner, the weather never drops to negatives and people REALLY think that I talk funny... which I just still don't see.
CB: Being a defender, does it ever get frustrating not being one of the attackers scoring all of the goals?
MO: I'm never really someone that necessarily likes the spotlight, so this thought has actually never even crossed my mind until now. It may be a little cliché, but I really believe the saying, "Offense wins games, defense wins championships.” I love defense so much because it is so team-oriented. It is so fun to work and move as a unit and be able to make the other team turn the ball over. In my mind, stealing the ball away from the other team and handing it off to our attack is more rewarding than putting the ball in the back of the net. Then again, that could be because I've never actually shot or scored in a game before! But hey, I like what I like.
CB: Is there an aspect of being a defender that the casual fan often overlooks?
MO: Women's lacrosse has a lot of moving parts that I'm sure many fans easily overlook. I know my parents - who have been watching me for years - still say, "I don't know the sport that well, but..." when they have input about the game. I think an important part of defense that a fan overlooks are the slides that happen off-ball when there is a drive to goal or a double team happens. Working off-ball is a stat that will just never be recorded, but without it, the entire unit will break down. So next time you're watching a game, take your eye off the ball for a second and see how the defense is working together in other areas.
CB: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned while being a student-athlete at Cal?
MO: The biggest lesson that I've learned at Cal is that no one is going to hand you anything; you need to work for what you want and not be afraid to ask for help. In lacrosse, you have to put in that extra time running, playing wall ball and doing individuals if you want to get out there on the field. Even if you think you’re playing at your best, there could still be someone playing better than you, which means you just have to work that much harder. I am constantly asking my coaches for individuals before or after practice to keep on top of my skills that I may not be able to work on in practice. This ability to ask for help has directly translated to my school work. At such a big school, it can be intimidating to ask for help, but I've learned that if you don't ask for it, you're not going to get it. Going to office hours and asking my professors for help really breaks down those fears and has allowed me to better excel in the classroom.
CB: What are your personal goals for this season?
MO: With such a young team filled with so much potential and talent, my personal goal is to help the team collectively reach that potential. On defense, I am alongside two other senior defenders, Grace [Parente] and Jackie [Pelletier], who both have so much experience and knowledge of the game. I feel, as seniors, it is our responsibility to share all that we know with the younger players and help them grow. This growth will help us to continuously surprise our opponents and then eventually get that MPSF Championship we have been working for the past three years!
CB: With the addition of Colorado this year, do you feel like the MPSF is getting more competitive and lacrosse in general is growing on the West Coast?
MO: Absolutely. Each of the last three years we have had a new team added to our conference, which is a small testament to how much lacrosse is growing on the West Coast. I've really been able to see the growth with my experience coaching youth through BearLax. I've seen girls starting to play younger and younger every year and continuously growing to love the game. On Long Island, kids eat sleep and breathe lacrosse, and although it is not quite that way here yet, it is still exciting to see that kind of mindset in more kids’ minds each year. Hopefully with all of these new teams on the West Coast the growth will skyrocket even more!