“No one can fight with her on the court,” sophomore guard Rayne Connell said with reverence. “She’s a beast.”
That beast is Penn junior forward Kara Bonenberger. Bonenberger’s tenacity and physical style is contrasted by her quiet, focused demeanor when leading her teammates.
Over the course of her three years on the Penn women’s basketball team, Bonenberger’s stats have escalated and opposing teams have learned to account for her presence on the floor at all times.
“She’s got a unique personality, [her teammates] love her because she’s got some quirky tendencies,” head coach Mike McLaughlin said with a smile creased cross his face. “But for us she’s stoic…unassuming, unemotional. She does what she’s got to do.”
The Pennsylvania native provides an interesting dynamic to her team.
Her complex yet gentle attitude allows her to fit into all sorts of roles on the team, whether on the court or off.
“She can play any personality on our team,” Connell said. “She can be the really nerdy kid into science or she can be the hardest working kid on the court.”
Specifically, her weight room ethic is a point of admiration for not only her coach but the rest of her teammates.
“I’ve been trying to keep going and lifting and running to stay in shape,” Bonenberger said. “I think I’m the only one on this team that likes to lift. It’s so much fun and relaxing for me.”
“I think [lifting] has translated,” McLaughlin added. “I think she’s getting to her position stronger, she never gets pushed off the ball and it has translated to her success.”
Her biggest strength on the floor this year has been improved by her weight room ethic. She constantly pounds the inside of the post, notching layup after layup. While she’s not the strongest outside shooter, the Quakers haven’t had to rely on that aspect of her game. Bonenberger leads the team in field goal percentage (.507) as a result of her ability to get consistent high-percentage looks under the basket.
Not only has she contributed statistically, but her contributions have allowed star freshman center Sydney Stipanovich to flourish in this system.
“[Bonenberger] has given us another side of her,” McLaughlin said. “Now, she’s grown as a player…last year she didn’t have the ball skills that she does now…her basketball maturity has grown, she’s more poised than she was and she handles adversity better.”
What’s more intriguing about Bonenberger is her interest in environmental issues and animal rights off the court. Bonenberger is a renowned animal lover and volunteers whenever possible.
“I absolutely love animals,” Bonenberger said. “I volunteered last summer with the Wildlands Conservancy…I worked with children…and taught them about different animals like birds, reptiles and everything else.
“I would love to just travel the world and see everything.”
Perhaps her love of animals is what translates to her pure instincts on court. Bonenberger and the rest of the Quakers made significant strides in their chances to claim the Ivy title this season by knocking off Dartmouth and Harvard last weekend.
But for now, Bonenberger will probably stay with her normal regiment of lifting twice as much and playing, disciplined basketball. This lover of animals and her teammates are on the prowl, and the rest of the Ancient Eight should take notice.
“We run this floor the whole game,” Bonenberger said. “Teams don’t know what we are doing and we can do whatever we want.”