Athlete Spotlight: Kimberly McDaniels — Play hard, pray harder

Christopher Dacanay
Sports Editor

Kimberly “Kimmy” McDaniels describes herself as an “outdoors kind of girl.”

Hailing from sun-scorched Tucson, Arizona, McDaniels is an athlete through and through. She also enjoys hiking, playing cards, spending time with family, making crafts and — especially — woodworking.

McDaniels’ dad, whom she calls a “very old-school man,” owns a table saw and plenty of plywood for them both to use. She calls her woodwork “minor projects,” but the projects’ complexity reveals McDaniels’ hidden skill.

“I made my friend this box one year,” McDaniels said. “I was in the engineering program at my high school, and I laser engraved a Bible verse into it. … I put a lid on it and everything with hinges in the back, sanded (it and) finished it with a coat of oil.”

Generally, McDaniels is known around Franciscan University of Steubenville as a freshman biology major concentrating in pre-health. To the Lady Barons, she’s also a forward on the basketball team and an infielder on the softball team. Her preferred sport is softball, and she considers basketball a “side gig.”

This is McDaniels’ first season with the Lady Barons. The basketball season wrapped up in February, and McDaniels achieved the highest field goal percentage of the season, having made about 41% of her shots.

Currently, McDaniels is playing on the softball team, which is in the thick of its season. So far, they’re sporting five wins and 13 losses, with a great number of conference matches coming up.

“(The softball season) has been a lot of fun,” McDaniels said. “Honestly, going from Arizona to here has been definitely a change in weather, but the coaches are great, the players are great — a lot of good senior leadership.

“I love the girls, and I think they’re the reason it’s worth competing because I compete for them, for the girls around me.”

The season has been tough for the Lady Barons softball team, and it was hard for the basketball team as well. In spite of some tough losses, McDaniels said, the team has been striving to keep a positive mindset.

“We’ve seen (our conference rank) as a chip on our shoulder,” McDaniels said. “We don’t want to be known as a rank 10 (out of 10) team. Going into each game, we’re using that to fuel us and to put a little edge on our shoulders as we play.

“We can be tough Catholics and play for the Lord as well.”

McDaniels is the baby of seven kids. She has five older brothers and a sister who’s 10 years older than her. Thus, the McDaniel household was always competitively charged.

Having started McDaniels in every sport under the sun while she was young, McDaniels’ dad fueled that competitive spirit. She started playing tee-ball and basketball when she was five, but it wasn’t until fifth or sixth grade that McDaniels began seriously competing.

McDaniels is the only one of her siblings to attend Franciscan.

“I watched all my brothers and sister go to the University of Arizona, and I kind of wanted to do something different, … spread my wings, and just experience life — get out of my parents’ house and live on my own for a little.

“I just wanted to get to the goal, get to where I need to go. … (Franciscan) has been kind of a blessing from God.”

McDaniels said her introduction to Franciscan, which happened during high school, was miraculous. At the time, she was looking into attending the United States Air Force Academy.

She was introduced to Franciscan by one of her basketball team’s coaches, alumna Iliana Spoelman, who is now the assistant coach for the Lady Barons’ basketball team. Spoelman had recommended that McDaniels look into Franciscan, and the rest is history.

“That just kind of blossomed from there,” McDaniels said. “(It’s) kind of crazy how the Lord works, but he’s good.

“I absolutely love (Franciscan’s faith environment). … I have seen my faith grow tremendously within the last couple (of) months I’ve been here. It’s been a blessing to see what really matters in life: that faith aspect.

“I love sports, but at the end of the day, I think sports is used to grow you closer to the Lord, and I definitely think that’s … how I’ve come to know him a little bit better.”

McDaniels said the softball and basketball teams pray before and after practices and games. They persevere amid difficult results in order to “build a big sisterhood for the Lord to use.”

McDaniels’ patron saint is St. Anne. This stems partly from family heritage: McDaniels’ and her grandmother’s middle names are both Anne.

“(St. Anne) is a very beautiful woman herself, too,” McDaniels said. “We look at Mary a lot, but who raised Mary?”

In the future, McDaniels hopes to become more involved on campus, looking into households and possibly playing intramurals.

After she graduates, McDaniels said, she hopes to enter and study in a physical therapy (PT) program.

“I’ve had a lot of minor injuries that I’ve had to go to rehab for,” McDaniels said, “and the people I’ve met at PT (have) helped me recover physically and mentally. … I think it would be a great field where I can give back to athletes.”

The rest of her college career is an open book for the multi-talented McDaniels. What’s for certain is that she and the Lady Barons will continue to give their all on the softball field and, next year, on the basketball court.