It has been a tale of two seasons for Kaylyn Bowen.
The Rush City graduate’s first season at Hibbing Community College has been filled with ups and downs, beginning with the highs of a volleyball season in which she received all-league and all-state honors.
But the lows have come this winter, as a variety of injuries have forced her off the court – and derailed her season.
The ups and downs have not diminished her love for the school.
“I want to get into law enforcement, so as a senior at Rush City I was trying to find the best school for law enforcement,” Bowen said. “Then the basketball coach at Hibbing, Kasey Palmer, talked to me about joining their program.
“When I looked into the school, I found it was a perfect fit for me: It was a small town with a lot of outdoors stuff, and their law enforcement program made me decide it was where I wanted to go.”
She did not know that she would play volleyball until Palmer, who coaches both sports, approached her with that idea.
“I was talking to Kasey about basketball, and she said, ‘We have a volleyball program here if you want to play that, too,’” Bowen said. “I thought, ‘Why not?’ When college is over, you don’t have opportunities to play sports any more. I love sports, so I’ll take every opportunity to play that I can.”
But Bowen was surprised by the season in which she finished second on the team with 190 kills and led the squad with 57 blocks. She ranked 18th among all National Junior College Athletic Association Division III players with 54 solo blocks and was selected to the All-Minnesota Collegiate Athletic Conference First Team.
“Nobody knew anybody else, but after the first week we started clicking,” Bowen said. “I played middle [blocker] for Kasey, so that was a little bit of a transition. … But college volleyball was amazing. I realized that if you work hard and work together, amazing things can come your way.”
Basketball season was very different. She played through two different wrist injuries, then just before the Christmas break suffered a knee injury.
“I took a week off, and I didn’t figure it was anything serious – I thought I had pulled a muscle, and it just needed a week of rest,” Bowen said. “When I came back, I could practice for 15 minutes, and then it felt as if my knee was going to give out on me.”
After an MRI, doctors said Bowen had a partial tear of her ACL and would miss a month of action. But last week, at a follow-up appointment, the doctor said she should not return this season.
“It definitely wasn’t the news I wanted to hear, because I only had one or two games where I wasn’t hurt,” said Bowen, who averaged 8.5 points and 10.2 rebounds per game despite her injuries. “Early in the season I sprained my wrist really bad, and then I fractured my other wrist – I only played six games. It was hard to not play because of all of the injuries. …
“When I told the team, I just lost it. I just absolutely love basketball, and when you’re told you can’t play the sport you love, that’s extremely hard. But my teammates were super supportive, telling me I would come back and next year would be my year.”
These setbacks have not stopped Bowen from trying to be a good teammate.
“I can’t do my part to help the team on the floor, so I have to do my part on the bench,” she said. “You can see things from the bench, so I try to tell my teammates what I see. And I try to keep their spirits up, talking them through plays and having a positive attitude.”
Bowen has continued her progress in Hibbing’s law enforcement program, a two-year associate degree track she hopes will help her get a job in police work when she returns to the Rush City area after graduation in the spring of 2021.
So despite handling 22 hours of classwork this spring, Bowen is diligently rehabbing to return to the court for volleyball and basketball next season. And in case she finds any free time, Bowen already has figured out something else to do.
“I might play softball this year,” she said.