John Jay senior Daisy O’Neill was a middle hitter and team captain on the varsity volleyball team. The Indians went 15-3 and advanced to the Section 1 Class A semifinals, where they fell to Nyack. O’Neill also is a member of the girls basketball team, which made the semifinals for the first time in 18 years last season.
How old were you when you started playing volleyball and how did you get started?
In third grade my parents signed me up to do a clinic that was run by, believe it or not, Diane Swertfager, the coach of the Hendrick Hudson volleyball team and a Katonah-Lewisboro mom. After doing that for a couple of years along with some other clinics on the side I decided that the sport was so fun and that I wanted to try-out for modified. I played on modified for seventh and eighth grade and I went through the normal frustrations of playing a sport in a more game-like setting for the first time compared to clinics. One of my biggest frustrations with the sport was how you could always see who messed up the play and lost the point. The pressure that I had always felt was so immense that I considered quitting. I decided that I would do the Gold Medal Squared (GMS) clinic, that (John Jay volleyball coach Tom) Rizzotti always has come the week before tryouts, and then decide if I wanted to try-out for JV. It was during that clinic that I realized everyone was in the same boat. Volleyball is so fast paced and can take a turn with the smallest slip up on either team. That is why you have your teammates there after making those mistakes to have them help pick you up.
The team made it to the section semifinals this year. How did you feel about the season?
Compared to our previous two seasons we did very well. I was really proud of the team this year for how much we have improved. During preseason, the first day of tryouts, I remember seeing how much competition and ambition there was just during 6 v. 6 and I could not wait to see where that took us during the season. It was a little disappointing that we did not make it to section finals, but there is nothing in the world that would make me trade that experience of playing in the semifinals with that team.
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You were selected to the all-section team. What did that mean to you and what was the key to your success this year?
This summer I put in more work than I ever had in previous years. I had the mentality that since it was my senior year, I should give it everything I got. After putting in so much work, I decided that one of my goals this season was to make all-league. Every day in practice I would make sure to push myself during every drill to make that goal come true. When Rizzotti told me that I got all-section I was immediately so fulfilled because it reassured me that putting in hard work really does pay off. On top of that, it was a great way to end my senior year.
As a senior captain on the team, how much do you value being a leader?
Volleyball is a sport that really relies on working together as a whole. It’s very important to pick each other up and have each other’s backs. That is why after every point we bring it into the middle, whether you contributed to the play or not, and get excited for each other or ensure each other that we got the next one. Being one of the captains I took upon the position of reminding the team of our core values.
What is your favorite team activity, pregame or postgame ritual that you share with your teammates?
When go to change into our jersey’s in the closet and get hyped for the game. The other captains and I would stand on a ladder in there and talk to the team about the upcoming game and everything we would need to do as a team to win. Doing that was a great way to reassure the team that we could win this and that never failed to get us excited.
Who has been your biggest role model over the years and what have you learned from them?
Coming onto my first varsity sport as a sophomore I was very nervous. I had never played volleyball in such a competitive setting and Rizzotti wanted to make me a starter. I looked toward teammate Lauren Donohue to guide me in practices and games. Lauren was a senior and the year before she played my position and was very good at it. Being able to look up to Lauren gave me the guidance that I needed to be where I am today. One of the greatest things she taught me that I can take with me through all of my sports is how to push myself and really wanting to win.
Tell us one thing about yourself that not a lot of people know?
Ever since I started to play varsity sports, I have been very superstitious. One of my biggest superstitions is that I have two lucky hair ties that I would wear throughout the whole season from practices to games. A couple of my other superstitions involve: if I played well in a game I would wash the clothes that I wore for that game and wear them for the next and going into playoffs I didn’t wash my kneepads either for the same reason.
Will you continue to play volleyball in college? If so, where are you going and why did you pick that school?
I do not know where I am going to college yet but I am 100 percent certain that I want to play club volleyball while I’m there. A lot of my top schools are also D1 in volleyball so I know that the club will still be very competitive.
Do you know what you want to study in college? If yes, what and why?
I do not know exactly what I want to major in but I do know that I want to have a profession that involves helping others. During my spring break I go to Nicaragua and help build better and safer homes for underdeveloped communities with the club at our school called Bridges to Community. After the first trip I went on I realized that I wanted to do something similar as my profession.
Who is your favorite professional athlete and pro or college sports team?
Ever since I was little, I have been going to Mets games with my family. Growing up at the same time that David Wright was such an influential player on the Mets made him one of my idols. Not only did I admire his skill but also his work ethic and what seemed to be a very kind person.
What is your favorite music to listen to warming up for a game?
Throughout the whole day before a game I always listen to my gameday playlist which includes all of the songs that get me hype and give me the confidence that I need to win.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?
Mind reading so I could know where the setter is going to set the ball before she does and put up a big solid block.
What is your favorite food to eat before or after a meet?
I like to eat healthy foods before games but I need to make sure I eat enough to keep me sustained. Normally I eat apple slices, pretzels and a cheese stick. Also, during every game, my teammate Taylor Hoffman and I would always split a granola bar during the second or third set to keep our energy up.
Best place to eat around the Katonah-Lewisboro area?
The Katonah Reading Room. The environment is really nice and the food is also very healthy and fresh.
Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat or Instagram? Why?
Snapchat hands down because it is an easy way to communicate and see what my friends are up to.
For a young athlete growing up in Katonah-Lewisboro, what would you tell them about the experience of being part of the volleyball program and why should they go out for the team?
The John Jay volleyball program is by no means easy. Preseason will put your body through some of the most demanding exercises you have ever faced. But, in the end, you will realize that it is all worth it because you love the game. Being a part of a team that has a common goal of going to states and works as hard as they possibly could to make it happen, is one of the best feelings in the world. If you have the slightest bit of interest in volleyball you should try-out for the team. You won’t regret it.