Jan. 24, 2006
Husky senior Kristen O'Neill has had a very interesting career to say the least. O'Neill was a starter for the majority of her freshman season, but was forced to red-shirt her sophomore year to recover from a stress fracture in her left foot. Now fully recovered, she is a key contributor for the Huskies. She has been a starter at times but now finds her role is to come off the bench. With the Huskies about to embark on the second-half of the season, O'Neill took a few moments with Gohuskies.com correspondent Andre Bayard to talk about the Huskies progress and what to expect for the rest of the year.
GoHuskies.com: Now that the team is entering the second half of the Pac-10 season, what are your thoughts on how the first half turned out, and what are you hoping for the rest of the season?
Kristen O'Neill: "I thought we had a very strong first half. The games that we lost, I think we should have won, and they were great learning experience so going into the second half of the season, I think we know what we have to do to continue to win games."
GH: Are you surprised of what the team has done so far?
KO: "Not at all. When we were picked 7th at the beginning of the season, not one person agreed with it what so ever. We were kind of excited to prove people wrong, and I feel like in a lot of ways we have done that. So it is just continuing, because we know how good we can be so it is just proving that to ourselves, and everyone else."
GH: What do you think is different this year, than last year?
KO: "I think we have more experience. We are playing better as a team, and understanding what it takes to get the job done and work together--you know stuff like that. There is just more of a hunger and a drive than there was last year."
GH: What did you and your teammates do together to get ready for this season mentally and physically?
KO: "Well we had a very productive off-season. Everyone worked really hard. We only got like 6 weeks off when school finished in June, and we were back at the end of July, and pretty much we trained together until our season started, so playing together everyday, and lifting weights--conditioning as a team really helped us I think in that experience in just learning how to play with each other."
GH: Being a senior on the team, the coaches and your teammates look at you as a leader. Were you ready to take on that role at the beginning of the season, and how has it been going so far?
KO: "I have been a captain for the last 3 years, but there is something different about being a senior and it being your last go round. There is just an expectation for other people to jump on board with that sense of urgency and really wanting to get it done. For Kayla, Nic (Nicole Castro), and I this is our last chance, and we really believe in this team in what we can accomplish so it is just a matter of getting it done."
GH: Besides another senior, who else do you believe has stepped up this season as a leader of the team?
KO: "I think everyone has stepped up in their own way, and that is something that is really special about our team because we are so experienced, so it doesn't matter the age everyone in their own way has stepped up. Cameo obviously has had a great season, and Emily has also been playing extremely well, but for the most part, even girls who don't really see many minutes really do a great job with helping the team prepare in practice and everything, so across the board everyone is doing a great job."
GH: How did it feel to come off the bench more this season, after being a starter all last season?
KO: "It was an adjustment. I always said that I willing to do whatever it takes to help the team, and the coaches thought that coming off the bench will give us an extra spark, so for the time being, I still feel the same way, I am just happy to help the team but I also have higher expectations for myself and I expect more from myself, and I know I can be playing better."
GH: Do you think that affected your game in anyway--good or bad?
KO: "Well at the beginning of the season I came in hoping to kind of compete for one of the guard spots. Unfortunately we had some injuries and illnesses in the post, so I had to play post. From then on I was just helping out where I can, and at the time it was starting at the four. But as soon as Breanne came back and was healthy, it was fun for me to go back to the guard spot, so at that time I was just working my way into the rotation."
GH: What are your thoughts on teammate Kayla Burt?
KO: "I have mixed emotions. It is obviously very sad that she is not able to play anymore, but I am very happy that she is still with us. It is very scary that her heart was still having problems, but I am thankful that her defibrillator worked like it was supposed to. She is handling it very well, and all of us the same way. But between her and I, we have a long history together, and it is sad to not be out there on the court with her."
GH: How much did she mean to you and the team?
KO: "She is still a huge part of the team, just because of what she brings to it. Her personality is invaluable, and she is so very march apart of this team, just being vocal on the sideline and encouraging everyone. She just serves just a source of inspiration, even though she cannot play."
GH: With Kayla going through a lot these past few years, has her "story" inspired you in anyway?
KO: "I think more than anything is learning not to take anything for granted. Nothing is guaranteed, and each time you step on the court whether it is practice or a game, play like it is going to be your last time out there because you just don't know."
GH: With this season being your last, what are your plans for the future?
KO: "I would love to play professionally if that works out. We will see about the WNBA. Obviously that is my ultimate goal, but who knows. But definitely over-seas--I would love to play in Europe, and tour the world a little bit, and continue playing."
GH: How is working in the Tyee Office here at Washington been going?
KO: "It is great. I am learning so much about the behind scenes stuff. Like being on one side of it, being an athlete we see everyone in the stands, and know we have great fan support, but all the time and energy going into it to make everything work is really impressive, and I am learning so much about athletic administration, so it has been a great experience."
GH: This week you have Arizona and Arizona State, whom you've already gone up against this season. What are you and the team going to do this time around to prepare, especially against Arizona State.
KO: "They are both extremely athletic teams, who definitely like to get out in transition, and get those easy transition buckets. The game plan still is to try and run with them in transition, and with ASU, what we didn't do last time was really execute offensively. More than anything we need to make sure we improve in that, and play good D.