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College Lacrosse

Lacrosse Q&A with Mount St. Mary's defenseman Kyle O'Brien

Each week, The Baltimore Sun will publish a Q&A with a college lacrosse player or coach. This week's guest is Mount St. Mary's defenseman Kyle O'Brien (St. Mary's). The senior ranks second in Division I in caused turnovers (22) and third on the team in ground balls (22). The three-year starter already has set a career high in caused turnovers and is 12 ground balls shy of another career best. With O'Brien's help, the Mountaineers (3-6, 1-1 Northeast Conference) are ninth in the country in goals allowed per game (7.8).

How does it feel to be second in the nation in caused turnovers?

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It's definitely humbling. I wouldn't be able to do it without the chemistry we have on defense. For the past two years, it's been the same close defense with [seniors] Alex Stefkovich and Nick Firman, and having [freshman goalie] Matt Vierheller play really hot right now, it allows me to press out and play more aggressively.

You've forced turnovers before, but is there a reason why you're being more productive in that area this spring?

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I believe it's because of [defensive coordinator Tim McIntee's] system. It's more of an up-tempo defense, where he wants us to go pressure the ball. And it goes back to the chemistry, where if I go and pressure the guy and I make a mistake, I know that Stefkovich and Firman are going to be in the right place at the right time to support me.

When you're matched up against an attackman, are there physical tells you pick up on?

It starts with the scouting report. We get a scouting report before each game, and it says the strengths and weaknesses and what they like to do. If I know that a person is only a left-handed dodger and he doesn't like to go right, I try to force him to his off hand and then I attack him with it. And then throughout the game, you kind of get a feel for what he's trying to do to you and you try to put him in a situation where he's not comfortable.

Are there any other indicators you notice?

The thing that's been working for me this year is, if he gets a step on me and I know I can't get a check in front of him, if his stick is coming up behind his head, I can time it perfectly. I don't check him in the helmet, but as the head of the stick is coming right behind his ear, I can throw the check down. But my favorite check is when he's dodging with one hand on his stick. You can give him a little shove on the hip, and that makes the bottom of the shaft come out, and you can poke it from behind so that the ball comes out.

How happy are you with the season you are having?

I'm not satisfied. I'm happy with my progress so far, but I want to continue to help my team win. I don't ever want to feel satisfied. Coach Mac is always telling us that we have to feel uncomfortable. That way, we don't get comfortable with where we're at, because when you're comfortable, you become lazy. So when you're on your toes, you're always trying to get the ground ball, you're always trying to make the next play. So I want to continue to contribute to the team and hopefully keep putting up numbers like this.

After a 1-15 overall record and a 1-5 Northeast Conference mark in 2014, how much better is 3-6 overall and 1-1 in the league in 2015?

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It's exciting because the conference is wide open, and we basically control our own destiny from here. If we can win a couple more games, we're in the playoffs, and as [head] coach [Tom] Gravante always says, once we're in the playoffs, we'll settle it there. Last year, at this point in the season, we knew we weren't going to make the playoffs, and so we were just playing to finish out the season. But now we're in the fight and everyone's motivated. Everyone wants to make the playoffs. I went to the playoffs in my freshman year as the [No.] 4 seed, and we lost in the [conference] championship. That was the best lacrosse experience I've had. So we're eager to go back.


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