It was a long road for Caitlyn Kroll to get back on the basketball court. After COVID-19 limited her ability to play at the end of the 2020-21 season, and an injury kept her out of the entire 2021-22 season, Kroll had been away from the Bobcats for a very long time.
"I think the last time she had played a basketball game was 400 days ago," Ohio coach Bob Boldon said.
Although Kroll's last time playing in a game was a long time ago, she didn't have a huge role on the 2020-21 team. As a member of a very talented and crowded backcourt in 2020-21, Kroll averaged 6.9 points per game and 1.3 assists per game. Since Ohio's star guards CeCe Hooks and Erica Johnson departed, Ohio is looking for Kroll to take on a bigger role.
In the loss against Long Island Monday, Kroll looked like she was ready to be the leader of the team. Kroll led Ohio with 15 points and contributed on the glass with four rebounds.
Before the game, Boldon wasn't so sure she was going to play her best.
"I told her in practice this morning, 'you're probably going to be terrible tonight,'" Boldon said. "Thank goodness I was wrong."
Because the Bobcats are one of the youngest teams in the Mid-American Conference, Kroll's experience is rare and valuable for them. It wasn't easy for Kroll to play through her injury, but even in a loss, the toughness Kroll displayed sets a good example for the younger Bobcats.
"You just see her toughness," Boldon said. "I mean, she was visibly in pain twice, and getting beat up, that didn't stop her from competing."
On a couple of different occasions in Ohio's game against Long Island, Kroll was sent to the floor after physical contact, but she didn't let it affect her performance.
Kroll was one of the Bobcats' starters, and even though she was banged up in different moments of the game, she still managed to play 30 of 40 minutes. Even more impressive was Kroll's defensive play. The redshirt senior had a team-high three steals.
Kroll was one of many Bobcats to have their year cut short due to injury last season, and for so many of those players including Kroll, it wasn't easy to rehab those injuries in time for the opening game in 2022.
"Now that kid has gone through a heck of a lot to play this season," Boldon said. "She's a great leader, and it's sad for me that this game went this way, because I know what kids like Caitlyn, Abby and Peyton... went through the last three or four days to get healthy with rehab and things of that sort to play in this game."
The Bobcats' loss against Long Island wasn't the result that they were looking for, but for a team as young as the Bobcats are, Kroll's leadership by example is something that can help the team going forward.