Posted On: 12/22/17 10:47 AM
OMAHA – Sometimes fate just keeps bringing people back together.
That’s the way it seems to be working out for Omaha Marian graduate Sydney O’Shaughnessy and Lincoln Southwest grad Marysa Wilkinson.
The pair became good friends while playing for the Nebraska Juniors during their high school days and they each just wrapped up stellar college volleyball careers in Omaha – O’Shaughnessy with UNO and Wilkinson with Creighton.
Now, the duo is back together again as they pursue professional careers in the sport that brought them together. Both O’Shaughnessy and Wilkinson will be part of a small group of players taking part in an “exposure tour” for two weeks in early January in which they will travel from Solvenia to Austria to Italy to work out for and play against professional club teams in hopes of earning a professional contract.
Most professional leagues run from September through roughly May, so teams are looking for players to potentially join them for the remainder of this season or for the beginning of the next. Either way, both are very hopeful to sign with a professional club.
Sitting together at a downtown Omaha restaurant, the pair reflected on their careers and what it would mean to be able to keep playing professionally overseas.
“I think it would be a cool to experience living there and meeting new people and being a part of a different culture. And playing the sport you love,” Wilkinson said. “The only thing that is really worrying me is that if I were to play right side I would have to play back row too and clearly I have not done that in a while, so…….”
O’Shaugnessy then cut her off.
“Ya, well, she used to win all the passing drills in club. It’s been like four years, but, she would beat us all. I’m very confident she could play back row,” she said as Wilkinson looked at her like she’s crazy.
If there was to be a reboot of the Odd Couple with female characters, O’Shaughnessy and Wilkinson might make the perfect casting options.
O’Shaughnessy can make most extroverts look shy. Her high-octane personality and fierce competitiveness is part of what made her one of the best high school setters of this generation while at Omaha Marian and led her to become a four-year starter at UNO, where she finished second all-time in career assists and among the top 10 in career digs. She earned 1st Team All-Summit League honors this fall.
She will graduate this May from UNO with a degree in Studio Art/Art Hisotry. She loves to be able to express herself – sometimes by dying her hair a loud pink – and to live life on the edge.
Then comes the quiet, unassuming Wilkinson that needs a little bit of time to warm up to people and – it would seem – has probably never raised her voice to anyone. She needs another year and a half to finish her degrees in Psychology and Social Work from Creighton, but you can tell there is a strong fire that burns within her to help others, and to be successful on the court.
She closed her career ranked in the top 10 in Creighton history in matches played, matches started, sets played, wins played in, kills, blocks and points. She was 1st Team All-Big East as well as an AVCA Honorable Mention All-American this season for the Bluejays.
While both obviously share immense talent on the court, how in the world did they ever become friends off of it?
“I kind of describe it as Marysa put up with me better than everyone else and then it kind of took off from there,” O’Shaughnessy said with a laugh. “She’s that person I don’t have to see every day or even month be one of my best friends and we’d definitely have each other’s back.”
“I was more of the shy girl and she was more outgoing,” Wilkinson said, “but we hit it off and hung out all the time during club.”
During their high school years they went to the University of Kansas camp together. Ultimately Wilkinson chose Creighton over Kansas. Ironically, she now says beating Kansas in the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season in Lawrence ranks as one of the best moments of her life.
Kansas was also in play for O’Shaughnessy for a while, but ultimately she chose Omaha over Butler.
The pair also joked about their 16s’ season of club when – at the ShowMe USAV Qualifier – they lost to “a team that wore T-shirts.” It’s funny now, but let’s just say neither of them were laughing at the moment. The chewing out that followed that match lit a fire under the team that led them to win the tournament title in Kansas City and sparked them to a 20-something match winning streak.
Once they were done with high school, the pair helped lead their college programs to new heights while being just a few miles apart.
O’Shaughnessy said she takes a lot of pride in knowing she was part of building something special at UNO. The team came a few points away from reaching the NCAA Tournament during her career and then there’s the face the Mavericks were thisssssssss close to taking the first set against eventual national champion Nebraska this year. She knows the team – and school – is on the cusp of great things now.
“We had such a young team (in 2017) and trying to do something unexpected with a young team was hard for us. There were times we could have performed better and done better, but I think they will be really good next year and it will be fun to watch what they do,” O’Shaughnessy said. “Leaving that way is better than leaving something that’s not moving forward. I’m becoming more content with that as time passes.
“I feel like UNO is up and coming and we had a pretty good year in sports, like soccer as well and the whole University is really making a name for itself. I’m excited to see it all keep growing and to be able to look back with a sense of pride when talking with other alumni. Especially being from Omaha, definitely helping build something in my hometown, that’s always something super cool to do.”
Wilkinson shared the same feelings about her time at Creighton, where the school achieved so many great things – such as a trip to the Elite Eight, its highest national ranking ever, hosting its first-ever NCAA Tournament matches – during her four years.
“We had very big goals this year, so (losing to Michigan State) did suck, but we did know that it would be a process and that it wouldn’t come easy,” Wilkinson said. “Michigan State was a great team and they played fantastic that night. It was sad when that happened, but it was a great team to be a part of. I take a lot of pride in it. It’s cool to say you were part of it. I know they are going to grow even more. When I’m older I’m going to be like, ‘hey, I was a part of that.’ I’m excited to see where they go and I’m also excited for a new chapter and meeting new people and having those relationships, but for sure I’m going to miss being around my Creighton team.”
O’Shaughnessy has set-up a GoFundMe page to help offset the costs of the exposure tour. You can make donations HERE.