in the Carolinas-Virginia Athletics Conference's championship match
on Nov. 7, leading to Mount Olive College celebrating on the field in
full view of the Crusaders.
Watching the merriment didn't sit well with O'Connor, who is the
starting goalkeeper for Belmont Abbey. A bitter taste was left in
O'Connor's mouth, and, as the lone senior on the 2005 squad, he'll
make it a top priority for the same scene not to unfold.
"We watched [Mount Olive College] celebrate, and it's something
I'm not going to forget," said O'Connor, who was a star goalkeeper at
St. Francis High for several seasons. "I play that match in my mind
"We hit three posts and they came away with the win. It's tough."
For O'Connor, seniority will matter toiling in the goalkeeper's
box for an NCAA Division II school located about 15 minutes north of
O'Connor, who helped lead St. Francis to a 3-1 victory against
Pomona Diamond Ranch in the CIF Southern Section Division IV
championship match at Cerritos' Gahr High in 2001, arrived at his
parents' La Crescenta home from sticky North Carolina on Wednesday.
He'll visit with family and some of his former St. Francis teammates
before heading into the teeth of North Carolina's searing humidity to
train on a team that's sure to endure lofty expectations under the
tutelage of first-year Coach Stuart Brown.
"We should have some good incoming players, and hopefully they'll
make an impact," said O'Connor, who was a two-time All-Area
first-team selection. "In fact, we'll have some incredible talent.
"We need to get everybody on the same page. If we can do that,
then I can't imagine us not winning conference."
Having O'Connor in goal might be the ideal place for the
Crusaders, who made their inaugural appearance in the conference
championship match, to build. Belmont Abbey (10-8-2, 7-3 in
conference last season) will return several key athletes, including
midfielders Nick Wyatt and Christian Ocampo and forward Luis Arrieta,
in its quest to win a conference crown.
O'Connor, who earned a spot on the all-conference's second team
last season, will make sure to keep the Crusaders afloat by turning
back scoring chances.