Up Close and Personal with Dan O'Connell

Up Close and Personal with Dan O'Connell

Oct. 31, 2001

Dan O'Connell is a senior on this year's men's water polo squad. The defender is playing in his own backyard as he grew up in nearby Saratoga and is fourth on the team in goals, with 18 this season.

O'Connell transferred from Boston College in the spring of his sophomore year and finished last season with 23 goals and 23 steals. Head coach Steve Hanson says O'Connell is one of the fastest guys on the 2001 squad, and, while making things happen on defense, O'Connell has also provided a solid offense threat for the Broncos.

O'Connell recently took some time to share his thoughts on a variety of questions, including why he likes eating at Benson.

Q: Let's start from the beginning. How did you start playing water polo?

A: I have a brother that's 18 months older. He just started playing in high school and got me into it in the summer of eighth grade. I was always too small to play football, so I figured if I wanted to keep doing something, this might be it. I was a pretty good swimmer, so I just got into it.

Q: So were you a football player growing up before you decided to switch sports?

A: I guess as much as anybody else. I played Pop Warner with all my friends. When I went to high school, I think I was something like 5-4, 135 pounds. I'm still a tall, skinny guy now... I just don't have much size to me.

Q: Play any other sports?

A: I played basketball in high school. Also did swimming, soccer, little league, just like the other kids.

Q: Have your experiences in other sports help you in the pool?

A: Yeah, it's a sport that takes different aspects of many different sports. I think water polo is a little like soccer, there's basketball in there. It's all really similar. I think a lot of people come into water polo thinking it'll be a lot more different, but it's only different because it's in the water. You're so used to playing sports where you're running around or your catching. It's so different to take those aspects of sports and put them in water.

Q: So did your brother play collegiately?

A: Yeah, he played at Boston College. He just graduated, and he's going to Santa Clara Law School next fall.

Q: Did you guys every play against each other?

A: Well actually, I went to Boston College for a year and a half before transferring to Santa Clara, so we were on the same team. So the last two years I've been here, we've played against each other. It had never happened before because all through high school we were on the same team. There's definitely some tense moments when you match up against each other. Brotherly love is forgotten when you're just going after each other.

Q: Who won?

A: We beat up on them. I definitely had the bragging rights. We won last year 13-5.

Q: Do you still rib him about that?

A: Not so much now.

Q: Why did you transfer from Boston College?

A: I was born and raised in California. I'm a California kid at heart. The weather out there, the culture shock... I just wanted to be closer to home. When I was originally deciding between schools, it was either there or here. I'm a lot happier now that I'm here now. I'm having a good time.

Q: What was the deciding factor in originally choosing Boston?

A: I went to Saratoga High, which is 20 minutes away. It was just so close to come here. My parents suggested I get out of California and see something new. So I went to Boston and it just didn't work out.

Q: What's been the best part of your collegiate water polo experience?

A: The best part has been this year and the team that I'm on and how close our team is. On all the teams I've been on before, there's always been three guys that would be off by themselves, too cool to hang out with the rest of the team, you know. This year, we have a really strong-knit team. We hang out together and it's good to see. This is one of the first years that it's actually been like this at Santa Clara, where we're so unified and so close, that it's helping us in the pool.

Q: What's the hardest part about playing your sport?

A: As bad as it sounds, or as good as it sounds, it's matching up against teams that are No. 1 or No. 4 in the country. They have guys that are 6-6, 255, and you look at our team, where most of our guys are 6-0, 170... matching up with them is the hardest part. But we put in the effort, as much as we can, to take them on.

Q: Despite the mismatches, has the team been able to take positive aspects of those games with them?

A: Yeah. I think that's another good thing about this year. We've been playing a lot tougher schedule than we have in the past, taking on USC, Stanford, Pacific... they're all top-10 teams, and we've been able to see that we can actually play with these guys. Against USC, we were only down 4-3 at the half and I don't think anybody expected that. Our confidence is definitely there and we're able to see that we can play with the best teams in the nation.

Q: So are you on track to graduate soon?

A: I will graduate early in the winter quarter. Communications.

Q: Do you have any post-college plans right now?

A: Moving to San Diego. Or Manhattan Beach, somewhere outside LA?

Q: What's down there?

A: Just a change of scene. As I said, I've lived around here for so many years, it's time for a change. I really like it down south too, the weather and everything else about it.

Q: Have any roommates lined up?

A: Some of my roommates here and some of my friends that will graduating from other schools down south. We've kind of talked about it. It's up in the air right now, but I definitely know I want to move down there with or without a job... preferably with though!

Q: Have you started the job search?

A: Starting to. Most of my roommates are pressuring me. They're all business students and are already starting their interviews. They're getting me on track. They're buying suits and here I am, going, so, I'm just here working on the rough draft of my resume

Q: Do you have a suit?

A: Yeah, one. I hope it still fits.

Q: When was the last time you wore it?

A: Probably Homecoming or something.

Q: Any musical talents?

A: I play guitar. I attempt to sing. I'm not very good. That's more my roommates' influence. They're in a band and they got me into playing. We play concerts occasionally, which is a kick.

Q: What kind of music do you play?

A: Punk. We do Green Day covers.

Q: What's your favorite song to play on the guitar?

A: Basket Case by Green Day.

Q: Are you guys any good?

A: We're okay. We do it more just for fun. Our friends get a kick out of it when we play. It keeps us busy.

Q: Any plans to keep pursing music after graduation?

A: I'd like to, it's a lot of fun. I don't know if I can rationalize it though. It's definitely recreation.

Q: Aside from what you play, what's your listening preference?

A: I'm pretty narrow-minded. I listen to a lot of punk. I like some slower stuff, like Jack Johnson or Ben Harper. I'm a big fan of the '80s. And then Dire Straits. I'm kind of out there. People think I need to broaden my horizons a little bit.

Q: Do you listen to anything in particular before a game?

A: Yeah, I listen to a lot of a band called A.F.I. They get me pumped up. My roommate Jay (Moorhead) does too.

Q: Favorite place to go on Santa Clara's campus?

A: I actually don't mind Benson. Everybody always complains about. But I've never had a meal card, so I've never had to eat there for a whole year. I don't mind going there and meeting people. Other than that, I like going to the soccer games and basketball games. They're a lot of fun. My least favorite place is the pool in the morning, but it's got to be done.

Q: Is it getting harder now that it's getting colder?

A: Yes. Tuesday morning was pretty bad. It was raining and it was cold. It's the last thing you want to do. It's the last place you want to be jumping into, but there's not much choice.

Q: What's been your favorite class?

A: Advanced interpersonal communication. It's just about relationships and how people talk to each other. I like the professor, she's really great.

Q: Does it help you with communicating with your teammates?

A: Yeah, I'm one of the captains, so it definitely helps out, to be vocal and to give advice to the younger guys.

Q: What other responsibilities do you see yourself having as a team captain?

A: Just setting a good example and trying your hardest. Some people can come into their senior year and think it's their last year and they can slack off. Or you can go the other way and take it for all it's worth. The seniors this year go out there and give it our all every day and set the best example we can.

Q: What have you been telling the freshman during the team's recent winless streak?

A: During that, we kind of had a few team meetings without our coach, just to talk about things. We started the season really hot, and then there was the tragedy in New York. We ended up not playing that weekend and then the next weekend we were facing the top teams in the nation. It was a kind of confidence shock, but we've rebounded. We're playing them well, but we were losing. It wasn't worth getting down on yourself, we know we're a good team.

Q: You're season almost over, talk about the team's upcoming matches.

A: Well, we have must-wins this weekend with UC Davis and UC Santa Cruz. Right now, for WWPAs, we need to win. Davis, for some reason, just has our number. We should be beating up on them. In order for us to move up in the rankings, we need to win.

Q: Anything else you want to add about your experience with the water polo program?

A: The freshmen this year have really impressed me. I'm not sure what they expected coming into our program. We have a really young team, but everybody's stepped up. Especially Mark Oda. He's one of the smallest guys on the team, I think he's only 5-6 and he's absolutely playing out of his mind. And Mark Perlite... they're all just coming in and stepping up their games. It's just good to see and know in the years to come they'll be really solid.