GAMBIER, Ohio — Facing one of the top scoring teams in the nation and staring at a three-goal halftime deficit, the Kenyon College women’s lacrosse team played locked down defense in the second half and rallied for a 15-14 win over the Rhodes College Lynx in Saturday’s second round of the NCAA Division III Tournament on The Field at Benson Bowl.
The tournament appearance was the third in Ladies’ history and the win in NCAA postseason play, which improved the team’s record to 16-1, was the program’s first since the 2010 season.
Rhodes, which entered Saturday’s game with a scoring average of 19.0 goals per game, the sixth-best output in Division III, finalized its season record at 15-4 following the loss to Kenyon.
Kenyon jumped out early, capitalizing on a Rhodes’ yellow card and then fighting off a yellow card of their own. As the teams tried to settle into their game plans, goals from Caroline O’Neil, Mallory Brophy and Ella Murphy put Kenyon ahead 3-1 after the first five minutes of play.
The Lynx then looked to senior Baylee Barker and she got the offense going with back-to-back goals that put Rhodes ahead 4-3. Barker ended up scoring two more in the quarter, keeping her team ahead by one.
Barker then tacked on two more in the second quarter to extend Rhodes’ lead to a game-high margin of four goals. Within the next minute of play, however, O’Neil pumped in two more tallies for Kenyon and sliced the deficit in half.
Before the break, the Lynx scored one more to move ahead 11-8.
The Ladies made the right adjustments during halftime and turned the game around in the second half. After yielding 11 goals in the first half, they allowed just three the rest of the way. With players like Alex Tiatia and Maren Helmacy stepping up defensively, the Ladies caused a dozen turnovers in front of goalkeeper Nola Garand, who made nine saves in the second half and 14 for the game.
With the Rhodes offense now in check, the Kenyon offense went to work. Murphy, O’Neil, Brophy and Brett Bearrows scored third-quarter goals to give the Ladies a 12-11 lead.
Rhodes scored two goals at the end of the third quarter and went into the final frame of play clinging to a 13-12 lead.
In the fourth it was Brophy and O’Neil scoring again to put Kenyon ahead 14-13. A little more than four minutes later, Blythe Karras zipped through the Rhodes’ defense to score what would be the game-winning goal with 7:57 left on the clock.
Barker ended up scoring one more for Rhodes late in the game, but that was all Kenyon would yield. Barker, who had six first-half goals finished with game-highs of eight goals and eight points.
For Kenyon, O’Neil topped the scoring chart with six goals, one assist and seven points. She now has 56 goals, 18 assists and 74 points on the season. Her goal and point totals rank among the top-10 single-season outputs in program history.
Murphy and Brophy each had three goals, while Bearrows, Karras and Emma Hutchison accounted for Kenyon’s other scores.
The Ladies move on to face Salisbury University in the tournament’s third round. The Seagulls are the defending national champions. They have a 16-2 record this season and are coming off a 15-4 victory over Stevens in the second round of play.