Sports / The Prairie Fire / January 18, 2017

Women’s Basketball starts strong

Above: Sophomore Karlie Thorn rises up for a layup over a rival Monmouth player. (Photo courtesy of Office of Communications)

With a growing win total each year since the 2013-14 season, the Knox Women’s Basketball team is a program on the rise at 8-5 so far this season, it seems that this trend will continue.

Winners of five of their last six games with the only loss being a heartbreaker to conference rival Cornell College, the team’s confidence is at an all time high.

Junior sharpshooter Hailey Leinart said that even though they “lost the game, it was still huge for us because we didn’t see our potential until we played some of the top competition and really proved ourselves.”

This season also marks the first time Knox has defeated Lake Forest College since Leinart arrived, a conference team with a strong track record of success.

This game marks one of their five conference wins so far, good for fifth place in the standings.

The success was not immediate, as the team struggled with some off-court issues.

“We started the year off rough because we had cliques on the team, and I don’t wanna say they were not healthy, but they were just there.”

After a team meeting in which many upperclassmen called for unity, the team has taken off.

This meeting was also significant in looking forward to the future, as this team has no seniors.

Junior Naja Woods says that though “it’s interesting at times, it’s been working out well with the knowledge that we won’t be losing anyone moving forward from this year.”

Above: Junior Naja Woods takes contact as she shoots after driving to the basket. (Photo courtesy of Office of Communications)

She continued, saying, “I think I like that dynamic, even though a lot of the juniors and sophomores had to step up just knowing that we didn’t have any seniors to look up to, so it’s us who are going to be looked up to.”

When asked about the team’s impressive stretch through their six most recent games, Woods shared, “I think our streak can keep going if we just continue to play hard and share the basketball, and focus on playing as a team.”

When asked if the junior class had a goal for their last season and a half together, Woods explained that goal has been the same for her since she began playing, “Just to make it to the Midwest conference tournament, and be in the top four.”

This goal suddenly feels very possible for this team’s young and talented core, as the team’s top two scorers, Kyra Huffman and Jarrelyn McCall, are both freshmen.

This year’s junior and sophomore classes are balanced out by a group of six freshmen, all of whom have already managed to make significant contributions to the team’s on-court performance, as well as behind the scenes and in practice.

Huffman, a resident of California, has had to adjust to more than just a new team and college level athletics, saying that “The shift [from] west coast to Illinois has been huge, coming from a place where the low was around 40 to now where the low can go into the negatives is crazy.”

As for her immediate success on the floor, Huffman credits her teammates.

“I would say the other players are the ones who definitely helped me in my success so far. They made me feel so welcomed and a part of the team.”

The team, Huffman says, has also helped her and the other freshmen feel comfortable on campus and in their academic work.

The team continues its conference schedule, battling rivals for the chance to place in the top four of the entire conference.

Only time will tell if these expectations ring true, but if there is one thing this team has, it is just that time.

Tyler Price

Tags:  hailey leinart jarrelyn mccall knox college women's basketball kyra huffman naja woods

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