Maggie O’Connell ’20’s women’s volleyball teammates and coaches knew she was talented from the moment she stepped on the court.
Outside hitter Natasha Skov ’20 explains it by recalling a match against Harvard. After a Crimson defender blocked O’Connell, she came back from the net fired up and focused on the next point. When the next set came her way, O’Connell delivered. “When she gets angry, she puts it all into her hits,” Skov said, “and I remember that one hit that just blew everyone in the gym away.”
O’Connell has won every individual honor in Ivy League volleyball — three All-Ivy seasons, Rookie of the Year as a freshman, and Player of the Year as a sophomore. She’s led her team in kills per set in two straight seasons. This fall, as the Tigers try for their fourth Ivy title in five years, they’ll be leaning on O’Connell’s efficient hitting on the right side.
“She puts a lot of pressure on herself to be perfect, but we do depend on her a lot at the end of games,” said head coach Sabrina King ’01. “To be that go-to player time and time again is not always easy.”
In the last three seasons, O’Connell said, she’s improved in handling pressure situations. She’s had plenty of practice, from five-set matches in Ivy play to a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances. “I’ve learned how to help lead whether we’re winning or losing,” she said.
O’Connell holds herself to the same high standards off the court. A chemical and biological engineering major, she works in assistant professor Sujit Datta’s lab and co-authored a recent paper published in the journal Soft Matter.
“What I love about being at Princeton is being able to play Division I sports while also doing engineering,” O’Connell said. “My role on the team, whether it be helping to get us out of tough situations [or otherwise], is also counterbalanced by my dedication to my major and my academics, which really is a top priority to me.”