Jeff O’Brien: center of attention for men’s water polo

Senior center Jeff O’Brien throws a ball during warm-ups at practice Aug. 26. Photo by Jackie Cohen

Men’s water polo senior center Jeff O’Brien chose Division III Chapman in order to balance school and sports life.

The second-highest scorer in the conference last season, O’Brien has racked up 142 goals in his time at Chapman and is sure to be a focal point in Chapman’s offense this season.

“(O’Brien) is one of the best players in our conference,” head coach Eric Ploessel said. “He’s not very big, but he is one of the best at that position. There are really not a lot of teams in our conference that have someone like that.”

The Panther sat down with O’Brien to talk about his life in and out of the water.

Q: How did your career in water polo begin?
A: I started playing right before high school. The high school I went to (Mater Dei High School) just happened to be the best team in the nation. I was going to go there either way, because my older brother and sister both did. I wasn’t really into water polo at the time – I started playing it because my older brother did.
I started looking into Chapman because I have family that lives up in Orange, so I was exposed to the school probably before I was even in high school.

Q: Did you always know you wanted to go to college for water polo?
A: No, actually, I was deciding on a few schools. It came down to Loyola Marymount University or Chapman for doing water polo. Other than that I was looking at University of Colorado, Boulder and University of Hawaii, so I kind of had to decide if I wanted to play before I could take the next step. Then, once I knew I wanted to play, I chose Chapman because of the academics, my major and it was Division III. Chapman fit the mold perfectly.

Q: What was the factor that made you decide to continue with water polo?
A: I just put so much time into it. In high school, it was year-round, ridiculous and competitive. We were always there. I was pretty much at school nonstop. I would go home, eat and go to bed. I didn’t want it to end there, so I wanted to be able to play at the least three months out of the year.
It’s nice to have the in-between. I don’t have to be as competitive and as committed to a whole year’s worth of water polo, but for those three months, I get to be really invested and competitive with it.

Q: Do you have any personal goals?
A: To help the younger guys develop, for sure. So that when I’m gone, the team still has leadership moving forward and can stay motivated.

Q: Is there something you want to do differently than last season?
A: I could improve my personal defense. I’m mainly an offensive player, but our coach is really defensive-minded. I think if I really improved on that, it would be easier to play all-around better.

Q: What is one thing you want to do by the end of the season?
A: I think two teams that it would be nice to win against are Pomona-Pitzer and Whittier College. They are the two that are kind of our rivals. Since my freshman year I was told, ‘Hey we don’t like these guys.’ So to beat them would really feel amazing.

Q: What are your expectations for the upcoming season?
A: I think I’ve said ‘to win’ too many times. But that’s always the goal and something we work toward in a season. I really just hope and expect that everyone goes out and makes the best out of the season.

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