O’Donnell’s consistency key for Minutewomen

By Jackson Alexander

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

With dynamic playmakers Katie Ferris and Jackie Lyons on the Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team, it’s easy to forget the consistent contributions that junior Jesse O’Donnell provides.

O’Donnell has helped lead the Minutewomen to a 9-2 start and a perfect 2-0 record in Atlantic 10 play. She ranks third on the team in scoring with 22 points (18 goals, four assists) through 11 games. The Chicago, Ill. native had arguably her best game of the season last time out when she had three goals and one assist in UMass’ 17-4 victory over La Salle.

O’Donnell has epitomized consistency over her past two seasons at UMass and she’s the only Minutewoman to have at least one goal in 10 of her 11 games this season.

O’Donnell scored 38 goals over 20 games last season, while managing to go scoreless in just one game. Combined over the last two seasons, O’Donnell has found the back of the net at least once in 30 of 32 games.

While she may be the most consistent Minutewoman, O’Donnell realizes that this season the team hasn’t had to rely on her as heavily.

“This year we have so many other girls who score, one game we had 13 girls [score] a goal in a game,” said O’Donnell. “There are just so many people that anyone can have a good day.”

Two of those girls have been Ferris and Lyons, who are tied for the team lead in points scored with 37. Ferris, a freshman, has tallied a team-high 30 goals, and Lyons has 20 goals to go along a team-leading 17 assists.

One of Ferris’ goals was a game-winner versus Boston University that was set up on a beautiful pass by O’Donnell.

“She’ll make a play too, at BU she didn’t have a lane, and she ended making an assist for the game winning goal,” said UMass head coach Angela McMahon about O’Donnell.

Considering O’Donnell’s pace and the abundance of outside scoring, it seems unlikely that she will repeat her 38-goal outburst last year. However, being one of the older girls on the team, O’Donnell has embraced the role of a team leader this season. McMahon says that younger players recognize her leadership and non-stop work ethic by following her lead.

“I think it’s great for the younger kids to see just how much she pushes herself, and while she can beat anyone on the field she’s not taking any breaks,” said McMahon. “She’s working hard on every play no matter what.”

O’Donnell spent her first year at UMass playing midfield under former head coach Alexis Venechanos. Her impact then was seen more on the defensive end.         

O’Donnell moved to attack in her sophomore season and she hit the ground running, finishing second behind Lyons in scoring with 47 points.

However, O’Donnell broke her arm during the Minutewomen’s NCAA Tournament play-in game versus Stanford. She was forced out of the contest early, and her team could not defeat Stanford, putting an end to their season

Perhaps the biggest improvement this season has been O’Donnell’s ability to convert on her free position opportunities. She has scored on seven of her 14 free position opportunities this season to lead the Minutewomen. Her 50 percent conversion rate is a huge improvement from last season when she converted on just 26 percent (5-19) of her free position chances.

“It’s something I’ve been working on a while, just getting out there shooting extra, a couple times a week, and just working really hard,” said O’Donnell.

McMahon says it’s her deception and speed that earns O’Donnell so many free position opportunities.

“Jesse O’Donnell has probably the best change of speed that I’ve ever seen in Division I lacrosse,” said McMahon. “She goes so hard that the only choice the defenses have is fouling her.”

Jackson Alexander can be reached at [email protected]