The best option was the closest option for Dani O’Brien.
The soccer standout considered playing for Division I St. John’s and Marist, both in New York, along with nearby .
“Those were my three top schools," said O'Brien, a 5-foot-1 defender who also played field hockey and competed in gymnastics in high school. "When I came on my official visit [to Mason] it clicked. It was perfect,” she said.
“Being five minutes down the road doesn't bother me,” she said. She enjoys watching her brother, Trevor, play football for , and keeping in touch with her family.
Another former West Springfield standout -- who also did not minding staying close to home -- is Paige Babel.
While O’Brien looked at schools in New York, Babel considered Georgia State. She has relatives in Georgia on her mother’s side of the family.
“I picked Mason because the school is academically very prestigious," said Babel. “The soccer team was a good fit for me skill-wise, and I love being close to my family. They are very supportive.”
The freshman defender played in 13 of the first 14 games, with 11 starts. “It's been what I expected. I expected it to be a challenge. I expected to have to push myself,” Babel said.
O'Brien played in 10 of the first 14 games, with four starts.
O’Brien, a life-long resident of Burke, began playing youth soccer with a travel team in Prince William County when she was eight. She was all-district in soccer for the Spartans and second-team all-region in field hockey.
Babel was an all-district player at West Springfield and was a captain as a junior and senior. She said the adjustment to the college game has been predictable. “There's a lot more competition in practice," she said. "It's been what I expected coming in."
Babel played youth soccer with the Braddock Road program, then switched to a club in McLean. She and O’Brien faced each other in club soccer. “I am pretty sure we tried out for the same club in second grade,” Babel said.
The Patriots were 5-5-4 overall and 2-2-2 in the Colonial Athletic Association following a 1-0 win at home in Fairfax on Oct. 9 against CAA foe Hofstra of New York.