Mairin O’Connor: Secret weapon on the field and the oval

In just two years, O’Connor has established herself as a formidable opponent, whether she’s in cleats or spikes.
Mairin O’Connor: Secret weapon on the field and the oval

It’s been over a decade since sixteen-year-old Mairin O’Connor first laced up her soccer cleats. She’s been through countless pairs, but each fit is just as familiar as the last. It doesn’t take long for her to get accustomed to new shoes. But it’s not the shoes that matter. Soccer has been her life for as long as she can remember, and she doesn’t anticipate that changing anytime soon.
She made her varsity debut as a sophomore and recalled the thrill of playing on the team. “It was a great opportunity because we were really good and went far this year,” she said.

Throughout the season, as her minutes increased, so did her skill. As an outside midfielder—a position requiring paramount speed and technique—O’Connor makes passes and runs to progress the ball down the field.

“As a midfielder, you’re one of the playmakers. You have to be technical,” she said.

Her skills do not disappoint. Girls varsity coach Tom Skiba attests O’Connor’s technicals are her greatest strength as a player. She dances around defenders, controlling the ball in effortless flicks at her feet.

“Mairin has a quiet confidence with an ability to take players on and score goals,” Skiba said. In her first varsity season, O’Connor netted seven goals. Although O’Connor’s quick feet carry her through lines of defenders, she believes her greatest strength is setting up and completing passes.

“Passing is something that I’m always practicing in either high school or club, and it’s kind of a foundation of soccer that is crucial if you want to succeed on the field.”

Next season, she hopes the team can clinch the TVL large title again, as they have the past two years. She has aspirations to play at the collegiate level too.

“This is the year to see if I want to do club next year and want to play in college,” she said. “I’m leaning toward yes.”

“She can take her soccer career as far as she wants,” Skiba said.

After watching her improve for a season, Skiba explained O’Connor was better than she believed. “I’d like to see her continue to be more confident in herself,” he said. “She has the potential to impact games like Rose Lavelle and be an unforgettable teammate for the next two years.”

Sophomore midfielder Mairin O’Connor winds up for a shot against Hopkinton’s perennial rival Holliston. (Steph Johnson)

O’Connor’s contribution to the team does not end with the points she adds to the scoreboard. Ashley McCann, an outside back who has played with O’Connor for two years, appreciates having a teammate she is used to playing with and can connect with on the field.

“Mairin definitely helps the team in a lot of ways,” McCann said. “Her dedication to the sport allows others, like myself, to become a better player.”

O’Connor and her older sister Keira grew up playing the same sports, serving as both a connection and a challenge. They would work on skills together and grow together. As elementary and middle schoolers, they frequently ventured outside to the backyard to film videos of joint training.

“We would always compete against each other to make each other better,” Keira attested.

Although the O’Connor household was brimming with lacrosse sticks, golf clubs, and track spikes, it was the soccer ball where O’Connor found her fire.

“I forget about everything else when I’m on the field,” O’Connor said.

“Out of all the sports she plays, her passion for soccer is the strongest,” Keira commented. “I’m thrilled to see the success she has in a sport she loves so much.”

Keira attributes this prowess to her sister’s mindset. “She has a highly competitive attitude and does not want to disappoint coaches, teammates, and fans.”

O’Connor surveys the field before a Hopkinton home game.

But soccer is not the only sport that runs through O’Connor’s blood.

In the winter of her freshman year, following in the footsteps—or bounding four steps—of her older twin sisters, O’Connor began running track and field.

“What inspired me to run track was my sisters because they had nothing but good things to say about the sport, the coaches, and the people,” she said.

O’Connor began as a sprinter, running primarily the 55m dash and the 300m indoors. She initially thought of track as a way to stay in shape for soccer, but she progressed so rapidly that the sport became more than an off-season placeholder.

“I like that I can challenge myself and stay in shape and have fun with my friends,” O’Connor explained.

“This year especially, she’s started to realize how good she is,” said mid-distance coach Dan Collins. “There’s no one that’s more comfortable on and off the track. I think people are surprised that that works for Mairin and often results in really good races and fast times despite her nonchalant and go-with-the-flow approach to the sport.”

Although her favorite event is the 300m, O’Connor has excelled in the short sprints, especially the 55m dash. Her record of 8.00 seconds has secured the third-fastest time on the team. As a result, she was quickly identified as a promising candidate for the 4x200m relay team, which qualified for the state divisional meet.

“She could honestly run anything from the 55 up to the 1000. A lot of the time soccer players surprise themselves with how long they can run and how fast they can run that distance,” Collins said. “She started off thinking of herself just as a 300 runner and a sprinter, but when all is said and done, I see her probably excelling more in the 600 and the 4×4.”

On meet days, the team piles onto buses headed for the Reggie Lewis Center in Boston. As she enters the looming arena. O’Connor manages a pre-race combination of butterflies and excitement.

“During meet days, I’m excited because there are a lot of people, and I just like to watch everybody running and doing well,” she said. “It’s really stressful for me because I get really nervous before my race. Because I want to perform well. But afterward, I feel good.”

O’Connor observes a race from outside the track at Reggie Lewis Center in Boston.

“Being on her track team was one of the highlights for my senior year,” Keira said. “She is very funny and knows how to make everyone laugh. She helps everyone have a good time.”

And while Keira recognized the same nonchalant attitude as Collins, she believed a shift in her sister’s mindset could help her improve.

“She needs to find the same passion for track that she has for soccer. She has incredible potential when she sets her mind to it.”
Keira was amazed by how quickly and effectively her sister absorbed and internalized the advice about improving her event.

“The effort she puts in and the dedication she has brings other people along with her, which not only is a benefit to her, but it makes our team better too,” Collins said. “I hope she continues to be a good teammate and a positive influence on her teammates.”

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