Section: Sports

A shot at possible: Kenyon fall sports gear up for postseason

A shot at possible: Kenyon fall sports gear up for postseason

Field Hockey

A team with a winning reputation in the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC), Kenyon field hockey will not claim first place in the conference after two previous seasons at the top. The Ladies (12-5; NCAC 10-3) are tied with Denison University (13-4; NCAC 10-3) for second in the NCAC standings for now, but in the final game for both teams, the two will play on Saturday to break the tie. The winner will have home-field advantage in the first round of the NCAC Field Hockey Tournament next month.

Regardless of their exact standing, the Ladies have a guaranteed spot in the tournament and bring a stalwart defense with them. Kenyon has the most shutouts in the conference with eight, and they allow just 1.18 goals per game on average, the second-lowest mark in the NCAC. The Ladies have a middle-of-the-road offense in the conference, ranked fifth in shots per game (15.76) and goals per game (2.12). Kenyon’s biggest weakness is inconsistent aggressiveness on offense. In wins, the Ladies average 18.25 shots. In losses, they average just 9.8.

Despite a slight drop in the standings after the last two seasons, Kenyon field hockey still has the defense to outlast opponents, and the Ladies have a legitimate shot at what the team was unable to achieve last season: an NCAC tournament title.

Cross Country

The Ladies cross country team just wrapped up one of its best regular seasons ever. The Kenyon women’s team finished no lower than fifth in any scored meet this year, and on Oct. 15 the Ladies claimed fourth place out of 29 teams in the Inter-Regional Rumble, the team’s highest finish ever at the Rumble for Kenyon women’s cross country.

Despite placing high in every meet, the Ladies do not enter the NCAC Cross Country Championships as favorites. In an NCAC poll published Monday, cross country coaches selected Allegheny College as the championship favorite. The Ladies were selected fourth, but Head Cross Country Coach Duane Gomez, who has coached 33 seasons of cross country at Kenyon, knows an underdog ranking does not determine his team’s ability to emerge victorious.

“We had conference here a few years ago, and the women’s team tied for third with Denison,” he said. “ Oberlin won and Allegheny went second. Then we went on to regionals, and we ended up going to nationals. Oberlin stayed home, and Allegheny didn’t make it, and Denison didn’t make it, but there was Kenyon.”

Gomez tells his runners stories like these as the championships approach to show what they can achieve. This season, the Ladies will look to return to national competition for the first time since 2012. And although the Lords have not finished on the same level as the Ladies this season, Gomez is excited to see the men’s teams ever-improving underclassmen gain experience in the postseason.

The Lords and Ladies will travel to Terre Haute, Ind. on Saturday to compete in the NCAC Cross Country Championships, where Kenyon’s runners will take aim at becoming one more long-lived tale in Gomez’s anthology of the possible.

Volleyball

Ladies volleyball defeated The College of Wooster (17-8; NCAC 2-6) at yesterday’s annual Dig Pink match, Kenyon’s final NCAC game of the regular season. With the win the Ladies strengthened their hold on the third spot in the conference standings and again proved themselves as one of the best Kenyon volleyball squads in decades. For the first time since 1996, the Ladies have ended their regular season with a winning record in the NCAC.

Standout sophomores Delaney Swanson and Schuyler Stupica have fueled a formidable Kenyon offense this season. Swanson averages 3.9 kills per game, the second-highest mark in the NCAC. Stupica is third in the conference with a hitting percentage of .319. Jensen Shurbert ’18 supports their attack with 9.19 assists a game, good for fifth in the NCAC.

The Ladies will begin postseason play on Nov. 4 in the NCAC Volleyball Tournament. In the days leading up to the tournament, the Ladies will focus on fine-tuning their game plan, but they already have the foundation for a deep playoff run.

“Whether we’re ahead or we’re down, we come together as a group and are able to fight through some tough situations on the court,” Head Volleyball Coach Amanda Krampf said.

Soccer

In the final game of the men’s soccer season, the Lords (14-2; NCAC 7-1) will face off against Wabash College (11-4-2; NCAC 6-1-1) on Saturday in a crucial clash over the number-one spot in the NCAC standings. Kenyon currently tops the conference, but Wabash is not far behind. The winner of Saturday’s match will secure first place in the conference standings and the right to host the upcoming NCAC Men’s Soccer Tournament, which Kenyon won last year.

In the conference tournament, Kenyon will pose a well-rounded threat with an offense as dominant as its defense. The Lords boast first among the NCAC teams in goals per game (2.75) and assists per game (2.19). On the defensive end, they allow the fewest goals, an average of 0.75 per game, and have recorded a conference-best eight shutouts this year. The Kenyon defense stymies opposing offenses before they can even put shots on goal. Sam Clougher ’17, Kenyon’s starting goalkeeper, has only had to make 28 saves this season — the lowest in the conference by a long shot.

Kenyon’s biggest challenger in the tournament will likely be the Wabash Little Giants, whose number-two spot in the standings is a surprising wrinkle in this season. In a preseason poll, NCAC men’s soccer coaches put Wabash at sixth in the conference (Kenyon was voted first in that same poll). But the Little Giants have won game after game on the shoulders of a robust defense. Wabash allows 0.82 goals per game, good for third in the NCAC. If their foul count is any indication, the Little Giants wallop opponents with a physical brand of defense — they commit an average of 15.76 fouls per game, the most in the NCAC by more than three fouls per game.

The Ladies soccer team (6-8-2; NCAC 4-3-1) lost their last game in conference play yesterday to Ohio Wesleyan University (6-10; NCAC 3-4). After the loss, the Ladies stand at third in the NCAC, but a trip to the conference tournament is no guarantee. DePauw University (8-6-1; NCAC 4-3) and Wooster (6-8-4; NCAC 3-1-3) are tied at fourth, just one point behind Kenyon. If both teams win their games on Saturday, they will take the third and fourth seeds and knock the Ladies out of postseason contention.

If Kenyon makes the tournament, the Ladies will rely on star striker Maggie Smith ’17 to win games. Smith has scored 10 goals this season, the most of any player in the conference. Despite Smith’s scoring prowess, the Ladies struggle to put points on the board. Kenyon averages 1.27 goals per game, tied for fifth in the conference, and produces the fewest assists in the NCAC with 0.6 per game. If she hits her stride, Smith can win any given game for the Ladies, but if not, the Ladies will find it hard to advance without a consistent scoring threat elsewhere on the roster.

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