Sophomore forward Abby O’Connor is coming off an impressive first-year campaign for the Loyola women’s basketball team (3-2), one that included being named to the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) All-Freshman Team. She was also the only player on the team to start in all 30 games last season.
Now, early in her second year on the team, O’Connor said she’s feeling more comfortable than she did through six games last year.
“Last year as a [first-year], I wasn’t ready for the role I was given as a starter,” O’Connor said. “This year, I know my role already, which is nice. I can be a leader for the team and, especially this year, with the group that we have, knowing that they all play a big role too and we have some really big pieces that are helping.”
O’Connor, a political science and sociology major, led the team and all MVC first-years in scoring last season, averaging 10.5 points per game. She also led the Ramblers in rebounding with 5.6 rebounds per game. The team comes into this season hoping to improve on a 7-23 record, and O’Connor said the team feels confident things can turn around.
“As a team, we hope to have a better record than last year,” O’Connor said. “That’s something that we strongly feel we will be able to do. Last year, we made improvements from the year before, but this year, we’re hoping to have a bigger jump. Just winning more games and our chemistry is something we’ve really been working on lately.”
Sophomore forward Kat Nolan, a health systems management major and O’Connor’s roommate, said she’s impressed with how O’Connor is progressing and knows how important she is to the team.
“Personally, I think Abby has made a lot of growth over the summer and she’s really improved her game,” Nolan said. “She was really good last year, but I think she’s made tons of strides this year. As a team, I think collectively, we’re looking really good and we’re going to do really well this season.”
O’Connor pointed to growing up in a basketball family as her induction into the game. Her father coached in college and she had two older brothers who played, so she said she was always around basketball.
Head coach Kate Achter said she values O’Connor’s presence on and off the court and her commitment to the program.
“Abby wholeheartedly believes in our message here and she chose us because she believed that she could help turn this program around, so she’s been invaluable off the floor,” Achter said. “On the floor, her play speaks for itself. She’s versatile, she’s smart, she’s like an extension of me on the floor. It’s not very often you get to coach kids that impact it in such a big way both on and off the floor.”
Achter, now in her third season at Loyola, said she’s been pleased with the team’s start to the season, but she believes O’Connor has more to give on the offensive side of the ball.
“Abby has been struggling offensively, but her defensive impact has been pretty good, and that’s great because we’re competing in games and Abby isn’t at her best yet,” Achter said. “So the difficult thing for her going forward is can she get herself out of this funk and feel like she doesn’t have to do everything. I think she’s a great kid. She really drives our ship and as we go, Abby goes. She impacts everybody else.”
O’Connor and the Ramblers are set to host Purdue University Fort Wayne Nov. 29 at Gentile Arena at 11 a.m.
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