By: Sean Neidig, sports information graduate assistant
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Rarely does a school or program come across a student-athlete that is a true program builder that provides a foundation to build upon. Over the past four years, both Capital University men's and women's lacrosse have been lucky enough to have two.
Seniors Kara Hines and Brennan O'Callaghan each stepped onto the campus of Capital University as freshman in the fall of 2014 and will leave through its gates in May. When they do, each will have left a statistical legacy that may not be eclipsed any time in the near future. What's more, the two share a quiet but powerful leadership style that has evolved and matured as their respective programs have.
"We get to set the tone for players that come after us and I like that aspect," Hines said.
"When I graduate and I can't play any more games, no matter what happens I'll be able to walk away saying I put in all the work I could," said O'Callaghan.
O'Callaghan is Capital's all-time leader in points with 315 and goals with 243. Hines is right behind him with 241 points and 221 goals, both records for the women's program. Between them the pair hold numerous other program records as well.
The two have become synonymous with lacrosse at Capital over the past several years but neither was a lock to don the Purple and White. Hines, a Worthington native and lacrosse player since fourth grade, had originally committed to play Division I lacrosse at San Diego State University after her sophomore year of high school at Worthington Kilbourne. O'Callaghan began playing the sport in second grade and stuck with it for a few years before taking a break until he entered eighth grade.
As each one moved through their high school careers, their motivations began to change. After visiting the West Coast, Hines realized that juggling a D-I lacrosse commitment with business management and math majors would be a challenge. That commitment to academics led her to shift her focus away from San Diego State and when she announced that her recruitment was open, Capital separated itself early.
O'Callaghan, on the other hand, had never even played on a summer club team until after his sophomore year of high school. When lacrosse became a year-round sport, O'Callaghan became more serious about the prospects of playing in college and on his visit during his senior year he knew that Capital would be a perfect match.
Something that became clear after they arrived on campus, and something that was pitched during the recruiting process, was the fact that each would have an opportunity to make an immediate impact. Not only did Hines and O'Callaghan clearly possess talent but because their freshman years coincided with each program's second season of existence, this pair of potential difference-makers was given a basically blank canvas on which to paint their masterpieces.
"I had a lot of room to choose whatever role I wanted on the team," Hines said. "I wasn't always the main scorer or the main draw taker in high school so I was able to jump in here, learn a lot of new things that I don't think I would have gotten from any other program."
And jump right in they did. The two players exploded onto the scene by setting goal records that still stand en route to being named the Ohio Athletic Conference Offensive Players of the Year and First Team All-OAC selections. Hines found the back of the net 62 times, the second-most in the conference that year and O'Callaghan led the league with 64 scores.
Over the next two seasons following their freshman campaigns, Hine and O'Callaghan continued their offensive barrages as "OC" led the league in goals each of his first three years and Hines accomplished that feat her sophomore year. Each player earned All-OAC first team honors each of their first three years and earned all-region honors, as well.
While Hines and O'Callaghan spoke loudly with their play, each acknowledged that they rarely vocalized their thoughts in the locker rooms, at least at the beginning.
"The past three years I've been 'lead by example' purely so when I would give people advice they would respond to that really well because they knew I was working really hard," Hines said.
"Early on I was a guy that wasn't really going to talk at practice," O'Callaghan said. "I was just going to come in and try to do my work as hard as I can and I figured that'd be good enough."
Clearly, those approaches worked for the players and their teams for those first three years as Hines and O'Callaghan racked up goals and the Crusaders lit up the win columns. Now that both are seniors, they know that they are the ones that not only need to be looked to but must be heard from.
For the three years that they played together, Hines looked up to and learned from four-time All-OAC honoree Korri Titus, the team's most outspoken player and leader. Hines finds herself thinking back to how Titus led and tries to apply those lessons. She has not moved away from her lead-by-example focus but she has started to transition to more of a balance between the way she has done things in the past and a more verbal approach.
"I'm definitely more introverted so it takes a conscious effort to be more of a vocal leader," Hines said. "The first day of practice this year was like 'how's this going to be, who's going to set the tone?' but not anymore. I think [the team has] adjusted well."
"Now as a leader I've had to get used to saying more at practice," said O'Callaghan. "I've been doing a better job of that but now that I'm one of the senior leaders I need to be verbal and help some of those guys. It's gotten easier but it's definitely been a work in progress."
Both Hines and O'Callaghan have been a coach's dream with the way they play and have now left nothing to be desired as leaders either.
"[O'Callaghan] is a very mental player, he's very hard on himself and he's doing a way better job of projecting that intensity and delivering his message," said men's coach Dom Marzano. "The way he speaks to his peers has been his greatest development."
Marzano called O'Callaghan the hardest working player he has ever met and says that younger players now approach him saying that they want to lead the way O'Callaghan does.
As each navigates how to become more vocal leaders in their locker rooms at the same time there was another feat the two accomplished together.
On March 24, both Hines and O'Callaghan made history just hours apart by becoming the first players to suit up for Capital Lacrosse to score 200 career goals.
"I had no idea," Hines laughed. "I don't really look at stats because it's easy to get wrapped up in them so when they announced it I really had no idea. It was really cool but it was such a big game that I was immediately sucked back in to what we had to do to try and win."
"For two people to come in the same year and be able to get 200 is incredible for both of us," O'Callaghan said. "A lot of those goals I would not have been able to do without those guys so I'm really thankful to those guys and the program."
Always a competitor, O'Callaghan laughed and added that "it would have been cool to be the first one" but he is just happy that he was able to seize the opportunities presented to him.
As their seasons and careers wind down, the two still have opportunities ahead of them on the field. Capital Women's Lax is currently 5-2 in the OAC and squarely in the race for a conference championship. The men's team's 5-1 record in April has inserted them into the thick of the conference title discussion as well.
Both players said that they never came to Capital expecting any individual accolades but between them, they have earned just about all they can. The only thing missing for each is an OAC tournament title and berth in the NCAA Tournament. Both have played in an OAC tournament championship game and lost.
Even so, both Hines and O'Callaghan acknowledged that when they leave Capital's campus, they will be able to do so knowing that they left everything out on the field.
Looking back, O'Callaghan has tried to live out a quote from legendary UCLA men's basketball coach John Wooden as he nears graduation and he feels like he has. "It's not by a certain number of championships or anything like that but once you get to a certain point where you feel like you have done everything you could, you couldn't have done anything else, then you're truly successful," he said.
As much as the pair has given to Capital, both feel that they have received just as much from the university in return. It is possible that their numerous program records are never surpassed but it is undeniable that the memories made and lessons learned at Capital will never leave Hines and O'Callaghan. No matter the outcomes of their final games, each senior stated that without Capital, without lacrosse and without the leadership experience they have gained this season and over their careers, neither of them would have been as prepared to enter the "real world" as they are now. On the field, opposing defenders were not ready for them. Now, thanks to Capital and lacrosse, they are ready for anything.
Hines stayed true to her goal of balancing lacrosse with her schoolwork and was named Academic All-OAC and CoSIDA Academic All-District in 2017. O'Callaghan, a business management major with a coaching minor, was no slouch in the classroom either.
After double majoring in business management and math, Hines will be working as a business systems analyst with Huntington Bank in Columbus while trying to stay involved with lacrosse at Worthington Kilbourne. While O'Callaghan does not have any concrete plans for after graduation, he too hopes to stay embedded in the lacrosse community in one way or another.
While their stories at Capital are ending, new ones will be beginning before long. And although they are excited for what is to come, Hines and O'Callaghan hope their lacrosse stories aren't finished quite yet.