Mathews grad O’Dell earns all-PAC honors

Saint Vincent College sophomore volleyball setter Marisa O’Dell, a former Mathews standout, was one of four Trumbull County alumni to make the All-Presidents’ Athletic Conference volleyball team for 2016.

Joining her are Lakeview’s Marissa Naples, a first-team selection and a junior at Geneva College, and honorable mention choices Alaina Lytle (Geneva freshman) from Lakeview and Warren G. Harding’s Summayyah Muhammad (Bethany junior).

“It was actually a shock,” O’Dell said about earning second-team honors. “I didn’t see it coming. We (Saint Vincent) are very young, there’s only three seniors on our team. So to make all-conference was definitely a shock.”

O’Dell chose to attend Saint Vincent, located in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, not only because it had a small-town feel like her native Vienna, but also because of its coach, Sue Hozak. According to O’Dell, Hozak reminded her very much of her Junior Olympic volleyball coach, Lisa Fauser.

Like Fauser, Hozak has made O’Dell think on her toes, and has forced the sophomore to take a different approach to playing the game.

“My all-around game has changed very quickly,” O’Dell said of adjusting her playing style from high school to college. “I’ve always been comfortable with setting, but hitting-wise and defense were the biggest adjustment. I was moved to outside hitter my senior year at Mathews, but then coach (Hozak) moved me back to the middle last year. I realized quickly that I can’t overpower people with my hitting.”

As a freshman, O’Dell appeared in 29 matches and finished second on the team in assists (398) and third in aces (30). O’Dell was surprised to have that much plahying time since the 2015 team was a veteran-laden group.

“The (college) game is a lot quicker and a lot more competitive,” O’Dell said. “My freshman year wasn’t what I expected. (College volleyball) is kinda like putting the best players from each high school team together onto one (college) team.”

Fast forward to her sophomore season, and O’Dell found herself taking on more of a leadership role, as the 2016 Bearcats featured just three seniors, as opposed to 10 freshmen and sophomores.

In 28 matches this past season, O’Dell had 588 assists and 264.5 points, good enough for averages of 5.8 and 2.6 per match, respectively. Despite the youth movement, the Bearcats actually finished one win better than they did in 2015, going 14-18, overall.

As for what the future holds at St. Vincent, O’Dell is hopeful that the team’s upward trend in the win column continues.

“My dad had made the comment, ‘You’re a second-team (all-conference player) now. There’s nowhere to go but up,” she said. “My freshman year was very different with nine seniors, compared to just three my sophomore year. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens with the recruiting process, who we bring in.

“Hopefully I can graduate with a PAC championship in the next two years. I’m just here to have fun, this is Division III volleyball, not a job. I’m here because I love it.”