In their last seasons at Occidental, athletes Christian Guillaume and Caroline Kearney shine as leaders

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Christian Guillaume (senior) on the academic commons on the Occidental College campus in Los Angeles, CA. Sep. 28, 2022. Ethan Dulaney/The Occidental

Christian Guillaume:

Center back Christian Guillaume (senior) scored 5 goals against Mt. San Antonio College, advancing the team towards their 16-12 win on Sept. 21. Guillaume has been playing for the college’s men’s water polo team since 2019 — his first year at Occidental. He said that his role is to create offense, distract others from dropping back so they can shoot outside and score major points. He said he started playing water polo in fifth grade, similar to his brother and his swimmer parents at home in Ventura, CA.

“While playing at Oxy I’ve been a lot more committed and accountable than I was in high school because I know everybody around me is just as dedicated and wants to win just as badly,” Guillaume said. “And our coach and our teammates create a culture of competitiveness, but also compassion and integrity.”

Guillaume said that even though the pools closed during the pandemic, he still surfed, swam in the ocean and lifted weights to stay in shape for the season.

Head coach Jack Stabenfeldt, who has been working with the team for six years and played for Occidental himself from 2010 to 2013, said Christian continues to improve and comes to every practice with a consistent willingness to work.

​​“Christian is a huge part of our team’s identity — he creates a lot of space for our perimeter players to drive and attack zones, and his presence allows us to control the flow of the game,” Stabenfeldt said. “He has a nose for the ball and finds ways to score high-level goals for our team every game.”

Guillaume said that the players on the water polo team are some of his best friends at Occidental.

“I am working on being more vocal in the pool and helping younger guys understand big plays,” Guillaume said. “I typically lead more by example, just trying to do my best all the time and hopefully inspiring others to do the same.”

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Caroline Kearney (senior) on the Occidental College campus in Los Angeles, CA. Sep. 28, 2022. Ethan Dulaney/The Occidental

Caroline Kearney:

From her years playing for her father on AYSO (American Youth Soccer Organization) teams in San Mateo, CA, to Occidental’s Jack Kemp field, center back and team captain Caroline Kearney (senior) is nearing the end of her collegiate soccer career.

She said the team won the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) tournament during her first year playing at Occidental and she hopes to bookend her time with another championship ring. According to her coach Colm McFeely, who said he has known Kearney for the five years since she decided to play for Occidental, Kearney is a “Happy Warrior.”

“Not all captains and leaders are willing to risk not being liked. Caroline is willing to take that risk for the overall well-being of the team,” McFeely said. “She has earned the right to be heard and her message is usually accepted and acted upon.”

Goalkeeper Maggie Baird (senior) has played with Kearney since their first year on the team. Baird said that in the pre-season game against Washington University Kearney played with a first-year on the back line with whom she hadn’t played much before — after teammate Chloe Hetzel (senior) had a major knee injury in the game.

“I think the culture on the team is very much ‘we before me’ so we’re very family-oriented,” Baird said. “We try to lift one another up, and Caroline’s been a very good foundational point for that. There’s moments in games where we all have our heads down and she’s like ‘No, we’re going to pick our heads up. We’re going to keep going. This is our game.’ She’s contributed to the fact that we’re a family, and we’re a family first and we’re going to take care of each other.”

Kearney said a few first years on the team even gave her an Occidental Mom hat the first week of the season.

“The culture is pretty vibrant. At practices, especially before, there’s a lot of goofing off, chit-chat, BeReals,” Kearney said. “I would say it’s goofy. We have a wide variety of people. And you can almost assume that 50 percent of the things said are sarcasm.”

Kearney said after graduating, she may consider playing with the semi-professional team she plays with in the Bay Area over the summers.

“I feel like I’ve made a lot of really good friends for life, just based off my teammates,” Kearney said. “That’s probably what I value the most about playing at Oxy.”