Compared to last year, the Youngstown State University women’s basketball team is more prepared for its season opener on Friday against West Virginia University.
“Last year’s team, I felt like we weren’t as far along as this year’s team is,” said senior point guard Macey Nortey. “Just the progression that I have seen compared to last year’s team is just amazing, and it’s kind of comforting and amazing in the same sense because I know we still have so much more to learn.”
Head coach Bob Boldon said he sees some specific differences between this year and last.
“We have shot the ball better and have a better understanding of what we want to do defensively, so it is an exciting time,” he said. “Obviously, we have quite a ways to go until we are a good team, but they have a real willingness to learn, [and a] willingness to compete.”
The Mountaineers return one starter from last year’s 24-10 team.
Boldon said he knows the game will be a challeng,e but looks forward to playing in an electric environment.
“They are obviously a more athletic team than us [and] bigger,” he said.
“They are going to try to take advantage of that size, and we are going to have to do our best in guarding the low post and doing that effectively. I think we will need to slow down their team speed as well.”
Nortey said the team has a good idea of what to expect from the Mountaineers.
“In practice, we learned that the guards are really quick, and that they are going to feed it into the post,” she said. “We have to do a good job of being as big as we can.”
In each of the past five seasons, the Penguins have opened against a Big East team. Their last win came on Nov. 19, 1997, against the Mountaineers. The Penguins won 96-86.
Coming into this season, Boldon said the team feels good.
“I think the mindsets are completely different than they were one year ago,” Boldon said. “[Junior forward] Brandi [Brown], being named Pre-Season Player of the Year, has brought some buzz around the team, and they have shown a genuine happiness for Brandi.”
Nortey said depth gives the Penguins many options.
“I am really excited about our bench and our newcomers, and the fact that we have different options,” Nortey said. “With [freshman point guard] Kelsea [Fickiesen] at the point and [sophomore guard] Melissa [Thompson] playing the 3 and 4, it really gives us a lot of looks to throw at opponents.”
Even with the excitement around the team, Boldon said he knows more work is needed.
“Our weaknesses will be exposed,” he said. “We will find out exactly what we aren’t good at Friday night. All your non-conference games, you hope you can learn and get better for your conference games. They really help to prepare for our conference season in January.”