Erica Odell NAIA Women's Tournament MVP Interview

by Trenton Gafner

Name: Erica Odell

School: Benedictine College (NAIA school in Atchinson, KS)

Position: Middie

Year: Senior

Where did you grow up and when did you start playing lacrosse? Who introduced you to the game?

I grew up in Lee's Summit, MO my entire life and started playing lacrosse when I was in 6th grade. I remember going home from school with my best friend one day to her house where she had two older sisters. Her oldest sister actually had her first lacrosse practice that day and their dad asked if my friend and I wanted to go. Out of boredom, we thought we would give this sport a shot and we went to every lacrosse practice since that day. 

What were your thoughts after your first practice and game? 

I think I was very excited after our first practice. It was such a hard sport to learn but for some reason, I had a lot of fun learning and growing in it. I remember going home to tell my dad and the look on his face was so shocked - I don't think either of us thought lacrosse was going to be a sport we would get into. 

When did you become hooked on the game and knew you wanted to play in college?I became hooked/knew I had an opportunity to play at the college level in late middle school/early high school. This is actually one of my favorite memories to reflect on - Ever since I started traveling to competitive tournaments with KC Blue Lions, Midwestern Force, and occasionally House Teams, the recruiting coaches were in awe of the "midwesterner mentality". College coaches regularly pulled our team coach aside and would comment on how impressive our hard work, grittiness, and will to never give up really showed on the field. It was then, in those moments, that I knew I had a shot. 

What were you looking for in a college during your recruiting process and why did you end up choosing Benedictine College?

College hunting and decision-making were difficult! As a first-generation college student in my family, I really didn't know what questions to ask, what qualities were important, and many other things. At first, I wanted to go to a big school far away from home and I was successful, but soon realized that a small school close to home was just as amazing. When I made my transfer decision in December 2020, I wanted to prioritize my friends, family, community, and faith and Benedictine College gave me the perfect combination. 

What were your years like leading up to this year at Benedictine?

My first semester at BC was the spring semester of my Junior year, 2021. Just transferring 1,000 miles and headed straight into lacrosse season, my main focus was to adapt to the team's culture and find my role. Soon into the season, we knew that we had an opportunity to attend Nationals and we fought hard to make that a reality. Unfortunately, the 2021 season did not end the way we wanted it to, we took the summer to regroup, arrived back in the Fall, and got straight to work for the 2022 season. Since then, we adopted a huge underdog mentality and worked every day to prove that we could and deserved to advance to the finals. 

Tell us about your trip up to Michigan for the National Tournament and how the quarters and semi finals games went?

Our team's trip to nationals was incredible and we were treated like a power 5 D1 team for the entire week!! We took a charter bus 11 hours to Southfield and were joined by our athletic trainer, Dani, and our strength coach, Ben. During the whole trip, our coaches and trainers provided us with the best recovery and nutrition setups which I think played a huge role in our success. We were the first team to get to the hotel and we spent our time making the final adjustments to our game plan. We were only focused on one game at a time and took time to really understand the scout. We had a pretty tactical game plan for our first game vs Cumberlands which resulted in success and I think we really started to prove to ourselves in that game. Our second game vs SCAD didn't have as much preparation tactically so we really just noted a few of their key players but wanted to rely on our style of play to carry us through the semifinal game.

What were your thoughts going into the National Championship game vs the #1 team?

I remember it feeling just like any other game honestly. There could have easily been a lot of emotion regarding it being my last game ever, the hype of the national championship, playing an undefeated team ... but I just wanted to take it in for what it was worth; another opportunity to play good lacrosse with my buddies.

Do your best to explain what it was like to win the 2022 NAIA National Championship for Women's Lacrosse?

The feeling of winning a national championship is truly an incomparable feeling or moment. There was so much to cherish and a little relief that we all felt. You quickly relive the past season and reflect on all the moments that got us to where we were. The craziest thing to think about is how we didn't just win a women's lacrosse national championship, we also brought comradery back to our campus and shared this wonderful experience with our school, friends, teachers, and community.

You were named the tournament MVP, I know that wasn’t because of just three games of playing well, tell us about all the hard work you did leading up to that game?

I wouldn't have been in the position I was in if it weren't for my teammates and coaches. They are the ones who make me better every day, physically, mentally, and spiritually. Something I reminded myself throughout the year was the importance of staying diligent and following through with the routine even on the days I didn't want to. 

Looking back after it was all over, what is it that you reflect on about lacrosse that has brought into your life? 

The thing I reflect the most on is the people I have met through this sport. Lacrosse is a unique community and it's truly inspiring to see how many current and former teammates/coaches strive to grow the game every day and be leaders in their communities. 

Thanks for your time Erica and congratulations to you and your team!