The Youngstown State University volleyball team began this season winning its first six matches entering the Michigan Invitational with a 9-3 record.
But the Michigan Invitational didn’t go as planned for the Penguins, as they lost all three games in Ann Arbor. While YSU was competitive, the team thought they could have played better. Junior Jessie Gerig thought the team had a chance to win, but executed poorly.
“We weren’t quite as ready as we needed to be. I know that our first game against Michigan, we just didn’t execute the plays that were given to us. They gave us a lot of easy stuff, but we didn’t execute very well,” Gerig said.
The Penguins then began conference play losing to Oakland University, but rebounded the next day, defeating Wright State University and sweeping the first three sets.
This past weekend, the team played University of Illinois at Chicago and Valparaiso University.
The Penguins lost 3-1 against Valparaiso on Friday night. Even though they won the first set 25-16, they lost the last three sets 22-25, 20-25 and 13-25.
On Saturday, the team started strong, winning the first two sets against UIC 25-23 and 25-15. They lost the third set but won the fourth 25-20, resulting in a 3-1 YSU win.
YSU is currently 11-8 during the regular season and 2-2 during Horizon League play — placing YSU fourth in the Horizon League standings.
This upcoming weekend, the Penguins have the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay at home. With YSU currently sitting in the middle of the conference standings, every game will be critical for the rest of the season.
Head coach Mark Hardaway said he believes the struggles over the past two weeks were attributed to fatigue. The Penguins began the season with 15 consecutive away games and didn’t play a home game until the conference opener against Oakland.
Fatigue could have played a factor at Michigan. The volleyball team played three games in two days. After playing their first match against the University of Michigan Wolverines, YSU had to play Eastern Michigan University later on that evening.
The Penguins may have had a tough time over the past couple weeks, but the players have experienced individual success throughout the year. Gerig said she believes the team is starting to turn things around, and the team’s chemistry is starting to improve.
“Recently we’ve started building each other up, and I think that was a big thing in the past tournaments,” she said. “We were losing in the games and we didn’t feel confident in each other, and we’re gaining that back.”
The Penguins have ten games left in the regular season. All of them will be conference games. Hardaway said that the Horizon League has improved over the years, but still believes the Penguins can make a run at the conference championship.
“We can’t go into the gym and play poor and expect to win. I really think this team can beat anyone in the conference,” Hardaway said. “A lot of the teams are 1-1 and anyone could still win the conference.”