The Kenyon volleyball team concluded its 2023 campaign with a pair of losses on Saturday. After falling 3-0 to the DePauw University Tigers and 3-1 to the non-conference Trine College (Mich.) Thunder, the Owls finished the season 4-20 (1-6 NCAC).
In Kenyon’s final NCAC match of the season, DePauw jumped out to a 9-1 lead in the first set. The Owls were never able to climb out of the early hole, falling 25-13. Kenyon won the second set’s first two points, but DePauw answered with a vicious 13-0 run as the Tigers built their lead to as many as 15 points. Despite the large deficit, the Owls answered back with a big run of their own, outscoring DePauw 14-2 to trail 23-21. Unfortunately, the Tigers capitalized on a pair of kills to earn the 25-22 win. In the third set, DePauw took an early 3-2 lead and never trailed again to close out the game 25-15.
Olivia Gumz ’27, who led the team with six kills, praised the team for its defense, but emphasized a greater focus on offense. “Our defense was always ready and on their toes ready to move for a ball, and it really showed in that game, as we had lots of good pick-ups and saves,” she wrote in an email to the Collegian. “[Something] we can learn is how important it is to have a strong offensive side. When our side is dominating with more kills and less errors, the score of the game changes drastically.”
In Saturday’s second match, Kenyon and Trine traded points to open the first set. With the score tied at 5-5, the Thunder took over, going on an 16-8 run that put the Owls on the wrong side of a 21-13 deficit. Down but not out, Kenyon responded with a 9-2 run to cut the deficit to one point. Unfortunately, a kill for Trine and an error from Kenyon gave the Thunder a 1-0 lead in the match. In the second set, Trine largely took control, taking a 4-3 lead and never trailing again. Facing down the end of their season, the Owls responded with a wire-to-wire third set victory. Kenyon outhit Trine 0.257% to 0.077% to win the set 25-17 and extend its season. Unfortunately, the Thunder closed out the match with a resounding 25-10 victory in the fourth and final set.
Though the Owls struggled at points throughout the 2023 season, Gumz was proud of the progress Kenyon made. “All of us have individually gotten better and stronger at our positions, and we’ve gotten stronger as a team too,” she said. Gumz particularly appreciated the community she found in her first season with the volleyball team: “I’m so incredibly grateful I get the opportunity to play with a group of girls like these girls, because they are such a special group and another family to me.”
With the off-season ahead of Kenyon and 13 of 14 players set to return in 2024, Gumz believes that the Owls can continue to improve while still finding joy in their sport: “Whether a team has a winning or losing season, the most important thing is that you have fun playing the sport you love. So I think, as long as everyone is having fun and getting better as an individual, we should be pretty successful.”