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O'Donnell leads team as soccer's only fourth year

He might not be the flashiest player on Virginia's men's soccer team, but when Drew O'Donnell takes the field you can count on one thing for sure - he'll get the job done and get it done well.

"He's not a guy who has a lot of statistics," coach George Gelnovatch said. "But he's an extremely steady player."

The lone fourth year on the Cavalier team, this midfielder from Newton Square, Pa., is able to provide something that's lacking for the youth-based team - experience.

"Drew is clearly a role model for our younger guys both on and off the field," Gelnovatch said.

Starting at left midfield for Virginia this year, O'Donnell uses an array of soccer skills to help ball movement from the backfield to the Cav offense be smooth and successful.

"I'm doing a lot of running both on offense and defense," O'Donnell said. "It's my job to make sure we're keeping the ball and moving it efficiently."

Although he's a soft-spoken role model, O'Donnell said he hopes to lead the Cavs to their sixth NCAA Championship in the last 13 years.

Surprisingly O'Donnell, whose closest opportunity at a national title came two years ago when the Cavs lost in the finals to UCLA, feels that this year's young squad has as good a chance as any other team he's played with to bring the title back to Charlottesville.

"I'm the only fourth year and the core of players is much younger than usual but, overall, we're so talented this year," he added. "The chemistry might be better than it's ever been."

When those inevitable tough times appear during the long run to the Championship, it will be O'Donnell who will need to help the No. 21 Cavaliers (3-2, 0-1 ACC) rise above adversity.

"There are always times in the games when things aren't going your way and the team looks to guys like [third-year midfielder] Ryan Trout and I to help get our team out of those bad situations," O'Donnell said. "It's important to have some good leadership on the field."

Have no doubts that O'Donnell is quite able to lead a soccer team at this level to success, as he's been a soccer star ever since his high school days at the Haverford School in Pennsylvania. O'Donnell came to the University as a top-25 national recruit and has improved his game drastically over the duration of his career.

"This is the second year he's started; his first two years he had some injuries," Gelnovatch said. "He's really come on for us, he's progressed and done really well these past couple years."

But no matter what the outcome of O'Donnell and this year's Cavs' attempts at yet another national title, O'Donnell has no regrets about his choice to attend the University.

"It's been a great experience," O'Donnell said. "Even if we don't win the Championship while I'm here, I'd never change anything. It's an incredible place - the school, the people, the program."

Only time will tell what's in the cards for O'Donnell's soccer future, although he will always cherish his playing days.

"If the chance to play soccer came up I'd love to play, but I'm okay with ending my career here," he said. "Either way I think soccer will always be a part of my life."