Oct. 14, 2007

Presentation "lucky" to have O'Bryan on sideline

Presentation head coach Jill O'Bryan (left) and assistant coach Megan Maguire


Games like Presentation's 6-0 win over Atherton on its Senior Night last Thursday at the University of Louisville's Trager Stadium can remind Caitlin Maguire of how far the Toppers have come during her high school career.

Just three years ago, when she was a freshman, the Toppers were more likely to find themselves on the other end of such a score and won only one game all season.

"We were OK with losing by four goals or more," Maguire said.

But that has changed under coach Jill O’Bryan. The Toppers have won 28 games in her three years and have a realistic chance to increase that total this week, when district tournaments kick off the 2007 postseason in Kentucky.

“We come out and expect the best,” Maguire said. “She doesn’t expect anything less.”

“She really has set a standard for Presentation field hockey that wasn’t there before,” Presentation athletic director Carole Dutchka said.

O’Bryan’s peers have taken notice. She was voted the Coach of the Year after leading the Toppers to 12 wins last season.

“She’s done a good job, especially coming into a program that has struggled,” Mercy coach Kelly Setser said. “She’s made them as competitive as they possibly can be.”

“Look at her teams,” said Liz Lewis, coach of defending state champion Sacred Heart. “While we’ve beaten them, they’ve improved significantly every year. Pres is lucky to have her.”

Presentation principal Barbara Wine would be the first to admit it. Familiar with O’Bryan’s reputation as a player at both Holy Rosary Academy and Kent State University and as a grade school coach, Wine personally pursued her to replace Betsy Reuther after the 2004 season and to work as the school’s student services manager .

“I don’t think I’ve seen a coach at Presentation that commands more respect than Jill, and I’ve been here for 25 years,” Wine said. “She demands from the girls all that you’re supposed to demand, and she gets it from them.”

O’Bryan (pictured, left, with assistant coach Megan Maguire) demanded a lot when she arrived. The Toppers lacked stick skills, conditioning, and confidence, and she knew that it all had to change.

“We went back to basics and changed their mindset so they’d believe that they could beat somebody,” she said.

The Toppers (10-11) are believers now and have their sights set on the District 4 semifinals on Tuesday, when they will play host Manual (10-11-2) for the third time this season. Presentation won the first game 1-0 in the CAL Classic on Sept. 7 and lost the second game 2-1 on Sept. 18. The winner of the third game will advance to the district final, set for 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, and clinch a berth in the state quarterfinals on Saturday.

“This is the game that we’ve talked about all season,” O’Bryan said. “Honestly, our goal is just to get to the state tournament. That’s what we want to do. So it’s a huge game for our program.”

Click here for the complete district tournament schedule.

State tournament

The quarterfinals, featuring the winner and runner-up from each district tournament, will be played at Ballard and Kentucky Country Day on Saturday.

The semifinals and final all will be played at Trager Stadium. The semifinals are scheduled for 5:30 p.m. and approximately 7 p.m. next Monday, and the final is scheduled for 7 p.m. next Wednesday.

Other tournaments

Sacred Heart swept the Freshman Stick Tournament and the JV Pumpkin Tournament over the last two weeks.

The Valkyries beat Assumption 2-0 in the Stick final on Oct. 3 and edged Mercy 1-0 in the Pumpkin final on Friday.