Oct. 22, 2010

In field hockey circles, Marylands Katie ODonnell has been known as one of the best players in the nation for several years. Now, recently crowned Sportswoman of the Year by the Womens Sports Foundation, ODonnell is hoping her accolades garner more attention for the sport of field hockey.

The senior attacker from Blue Bell, Pa., has compiled a lengthy list of accomplishments at both the collegiate level, and internationally, building a strong case for her selection as the first-ever field hockey player to earn the prestigious award from the WSF.

The three-time First Team All-American and Atlantic Coast Conference Offensive Player of the Year, ODonnell led the Terrapins to an 18-0 regular season mark and league championship in 2009, while pacing the NCAA in assists. In addition to her collegiate accolades, she is a starter for the U.S. Senior National Team and played in over 40 international games.

ODonnell joined schoolmate and womens lacrosse star Caitlyn McFadden, USA Softball star Jennie Finch, Olympic hockey gold medalist Meghan Agosta, and Betsey Armstrong, goalkeeper for the U.S. Water Polo team on the list of five nominees for the 2009-2010 award, which was announced at the annual Salute to Women in Sports banquet in New York on Oct. 12.
The whole thing was really cool from start to finish,” said ODonnell. We all went bowling together, and it was fun to see us outside of our element. It wasnt our sport, but we are all still so competitive.”

The group of nominees also attended a spinning class for charity, and then got their hair and make-up done for the awards banquet.

It was definitely a cool thing for me being with other athletes that are well-known around the world for their respective sports, and hearing all their accolades,” said ODonnell. And, then, hearing I won - I was kind of numb for a few seconds. All of the women were amazing athletes and any one of us could have won. It is an outstanding award and Im still on cloud nine about it.”

ODonnell has received congratulatory messages from fans throughout the world, as well as letters from the president of the International Field Hockey Federation, and Terry Wash, the U.S. Technical Director.

Both of them said what an outstanding award this is not only for me, but for the sport in general because it raises awareness that were putting out as much effort as these other well-known athletes,” said ODonnell. To get recognition for our efforts and how far weve come in this sport, Im so glad I am able to help put the sport of field hockey out there.”

And, ODonnell has already experienced that recognition first-hand.

People have come up to me after our games and have said, ‘I just came to watch the Sportswoman of the Year … Ive never seen a field hockey game,” said ODonnell. Thats what were after … is getting more fans involved and getting field hockey more well-known.”

A member of the U.S. Senior National Team since 2005, ODonnell believes her international experience has not only helped her technical skills, but also her confidence as a player.

Im able to tell myself, ‘You should be doing this - scoring the goals, working harder in practices - because youre on the U.S. National Team,” said ODonnell.

ODonnell, who became the youngest player to earn an international cap (play in a game) for the U.S. at the age of 16, has aspirations of playing in the 2012 Olympic Games, and hopefully in 2016.

Though ODonnells field hockey career will likely continue well in the future, her collegiate playing days are dwindling. She will finish her tenure at Maryland as the schools all-time leader in points, goals and assists, but the statistics are secondary to her intangibles as a teammate.

Starting in my junior year, my goal was to step on the field at every practice and play my also best, raising my teammates level of play,” said ODonnell. I want people to look back and say, ‘she gave everything she had. The records - those are just numbers and they will eventually be broken, but I want people to say she was the hardest worker on the field.”

ODonnell and the No. 2 Terrapins (15-1, 4-0 ACC) are gearing up for the biggest match-up of the year as they host top-ranked North Carolina (16-0, 4-0) on Oct. 23 at 1 p.m. ET. Something is always at stake in this series between two rivals, and first place in the ACC standings will be on the line on Saturday. Maryland won the regular season contest last year, while the Tar Heels nipped the Terrapins, 3-2, to claim the 2009 national title.

Every year it is like treading into the unknown,” said ODonnell. Were both awesome teams and anyone can come out on top in this game, and weve seen it before. Weve come out on top. Theyve come out on top. Its never about which team is better than the other. Its strictly equal, and who is luckier to get the ball in the cage. It is great hockey between great friends you get to see. As far as who wins, its a coin toss.”

ODonnell enters the contest ranked second nationally in points per game with 4.00. She has tallied 21 goals and 23 assists for 65 points this season.