The Kenyon women’s basketball team split a pair of road games over the past two weeks, falling to Penn State Behrend (Pa.) on Nov. 18 before defeating Defiance College on Nov. 21 for the first victory of the season. The Owls then won their first home game of the year against Earlham College (Ind.) a week later. Kenyon’s record stands at 2-4 with conference play looming.
In the loss to the Lions, the Owls won the first quarter but struggled to find their offensive footing in the second, entering halftime down by three points. In the third quarter, Kenyon’s defense stepped up in a major way and held the Lions to just eight points, while the Owls scored 16 of their own and led by five points going into the final period. However, Penn State Behrend took control in the fourth quarter, scoring 28 points to Kenyon’s 15, including an 8-0 run late in the game to hand the Owls the loss. A major boost late in the game for the Lions was transition scoring, as they scored eight of their 10 fast-break points in the fourth quarter. The Owls put up a balanced effort in the box score, with Mikayla Rudolph ’26 leading the way with 14 points and eight rebounds. Claudia Cooke ’24 also put in 13 points to go with eight rebounds while Alexis Newman ’26 was in double figures as well with 11 points.
The Owls responded nicely with a road win at Defiance on Nov. 21. Kenyon started strong, jumping out to a five-point advantage by the end of the first quarter. Defiance, however, struck back in the second and third quarters, and the Owls led by just one point at the beginning of the fourth quarter. From there, Kenyon showed its resiliency and was able to hold on for a five-point victory that marked the first win of the 2023-24 season. The Owls were led by a monstrous effort from Cooke, who scored a career-best 35 points with seven rebounds and went a remarkable 21-22 from the free throw line. Her performance at the charity stripe broke program records for free throws made and attempted, and her historic day earned her NCAC Player of the Week honors. Rudolph also chipped in 12 points. The Owls showed a great deal of toughness and intensity, as they shot 40 free throws throughout the contest compared to just 19 for Defiance.
Despite the slow start, Rudolph is confident about the team’s potential. “We are a very close team and that translates to us communicating well with each other on the court and being strong defensively,” she wrote in an email to the Collegian. “It was nice that the work we’ve been putting in showed in our first win last week against Defiance.”
A week later, the Owls defeated Earlham 48-44 in a defensive battle, the first time this season the Owls held their opponent to less than 50 points. Kenyon went into halftime down by three points and entered the final quarter down by four, but showed their resiliency once again. Capitalizing on defensive success in the fourth quarter, the Owls scored six points off turnovers and went on a late 20-12 run to snatch the comeback victory. Newman’s corner three with just over five minutes to play and her clutch lay-up with one minute to go proved crucial shots to retake the advantage in a game with only five lead changes. Newman, who played 36 of the total 40 minutes on the night, and Cooke led the way with 12 points each, and Bela Krslovic ’24 put in nine of her own, all from beyond the arc. Newman credited the win to the Owls’ ability to adjust on the fly. “We were flexible in adjusting in the second half; added new plays on the fly, came out strong in the fourth quarter scoring 20 points compared to our other quarters,” she wrote in a message to the Collegian. “We also knew that their advantage was their speed and transition offense so we were intentional about not letting them beat us down our own floor.”
Rudolph attributed some of the team’s recent success to an improved team offense. “Last year we struggled with breaking presses and pushing the ball up the floor, but this season we’ve been playing much faster and are doing much better breaking presses.”
Looking ahead, the Owls will attempt to increase their two-game win streak against Case Western Reserve University on the road this Friday, before the first conference match of the season a week later. Rudolph said, “Despite our conference being very competitive, I have a lot of confidence going into conference play.” As the season progresses, Newman believes that Kenyon can continue to grow. “We are learning to put all four quarters together and playing at our own [tempo] and our own game,” she said. “We are a young team working to define our team dynamic.”