By Katie Nugent
Special to goholycross.com
"The things that I will miss most about basketball really have nothing to do with basketball at all," senior co-captain Bethany O'Dell says when she looks back on her four years as a guard on the Holy Cross women's basketball team. "It's the friendships and the silly little moments shared in the locker room and on long bus trips that I will never forget."
During her time at Holy Cross, O'Dell has formed a tight bond with her teammates. With five graduating seniors on the team this season, this class is especially close. "It will be really weird next year when the season starts and you won't have your teammates by your side," O'Dell says as she imagines herself a year from now.
Beyond the academic rigor and the competitive basketball program that attracted her to Holy Cross originally, O'Dell's first meeting with the girls on the team during her official visit made her realize that this was the place she wanted to be. Within a matter of hours of arriving on the Holy Cross campus, she knew that these were the girls she wanted as a support system. "I didn't feel the same way about other schools as I did about Holy Cross," said O'Dell.
While the energy that head coach Bill Gibbons brings to every practice and game also drew O'Dell to Holy Cross, he has taught her much more about being a person off the court than being a player on the court over her four years. To Gibbons, helping out in the community and showing respect to all come first. "He has instilled the idea that you cannot take anything for granted in all of us - we're playing at the best school and we have great friends and we really need to be thankful for that," says O'Dell of her head coach.
With Gibbons' teachings, O'Dell has proven her dedication to the Holy Cross campus and beyond through serving on the Student Athlete Advisory Committee at Holy Cross as well as dedicating her time to tutoring third graders at Woodland Academy in Worcester once a week.
In return for all of the support she has been given from her teammates and coach, O'Dell has been an incredible leader on the hardwood. "It's Bethany's tremendous work ethic, passion for the game, and relentless intensity that makes her a great leader on our team," said Gibbons of the senior co-captain. O'Dell's perfect balance of fun and intensity has led the team to success. "I just remind my teammates to have fun out there, but to come focused and ready to play," she says.
After a disappointing end to last season with a first round loss in the Patriot League tournament, O'Dell feels like she has a lot to prove during her senior season. Knowing that last year is gone, the possibilities on the court this season really fire her up. "I just think about how big of a disappointment last season was and this year being my last year, all I want to do is get my teammates going."
O'Dell will leave a legacy of achievement at Holy Cross. Her accomplishments are too many to all be mentioned here, but include many Patriot League Player of the Week awards. During her freshman year, she was named Patriot League Rookie of the Year and has been named to the second team All-Patriot League her freshman, sophomore and junior years. Going into her fourth year, she has already made her mark in the record books as Holy Cross' all-time three-point leader with 244 three-pointers. Bethany is also averaging over 14 points a game, scoring a total of 1,104 points in her first three seasons.
Her freshman year still stands out as her most memorable season. Placed as the number eight seed at the start of the tournament, Holy Cross triumphed to become Patriot League Champions, earning a spot in the NCAA tournament. The team was down by 10 at halftime of the championship game, but had come too far in the tournament to lose in the championship. "I still remember it clearly," O'Dell says. "We came together and decided that there was no way we were losing that game." After struggling through a season nagged by multiple team injuries, winning the game was a huge accomplishment.
After the Patriot League Championship, it was time to go to the Big Dance, where Holy Cross was matched up against Duke University. Although the Crusaders fell to the Blue Devils in the first round game, O'Dell posted 19 points and will always remember the experience she describes as "unreal" and "unbelievable."
Throughout her four year journey, O'Dell has had her parents, Dale and Sandra, and two younger siblings, Ashley and Ryan, cheering her on. She is extremely grateful for the sacrifices her parents had to make to drive her to practices, tournaments and games. "My parents got me a hoop when I was only two years old, but I don't think they had any idea that it would turn into what it has become for me," said O'Dell.
Growing up, her sister Ashley played the role of teammate and her brother Ryan played the role of number one fan. Ashley has followed in Bethany's footsteps and is currently a freshman varsity basketball player at Southern Connecticut State University. Her brother, Ryan, is currently a junior in high school excelling at football, hockey and baseball. "We always call each other before each of our games," O'Dell says of siblings Ashley and Ryan. "They are a huge part of my support system along with my parents."
As O'Dell embarks on her senior season, she says, "We are just going to try our best and enjoy our last year here." O'Dell hopes to have a winning season, to dominate the Patriot League and to get back into the NCAA tournament come March. Gibbons agrees, as he says he would "like nothing more than for her and her classmates to leave Holy Cross with ‘bookend' Patriot League championships and Big Dance trips."
At this point in time, O'Dell cannot imagine her life away from Holy Cross after four special years here. "It's just a great feeling, that sense of community on campus, and I'm going to miss that a lot." Even life after Holy Cross will include playing basketball in some capacity, whether its just shooting hoops in the yard or coaching AAU, as O'Dell "can't see [herself] venturing too far away from it."
After graduation from Holy Cross, O'Dell plans to attend graduate school for a master's degree in communications. She hopes to stay close to her home, in Lincoln, R.I., as she has realized in her four years away from home that being around family is the most important thing. While she is at graduate school, she would like to work as a graduate assistant for the women's basketball team or an intern in the sports information department.
Coach Gibbons is proud of senior co-captain and sees her accomplishing great things in the future. "What she has accomplished on the court, in the classroom and in the community has been exemplary." "She is a terrific role model."