By Joshua Fitch
After starting the season 3-0, the Youngstown State University volleyball team has a record of 3-9 since. With the Horizon League portion of the schedule hitting stride, it’s a perfect time for the Penguins to get back to its winning ways.
“We have finally settled into our roles, so that helps with chemistry on the court,” YSU head coach Aline Scott said. “I think the girls are excited to get the pre-conference season done and start seeing how we measure up against our Horizon League opponents.”
The Cleveland State University Vikings swept the Penguins in the Horizon League opener on Sept. 21 in Cleveland. Despite the loss, Margaux Thompson, sophomore outside-hitter, had 13 kills to go along with 19 digs.
Thompson is a strong piece for the Penguins, as she received the program’s Rookie of the Year Award in 2017 as a freshman.
The Penguins are 6-9 overall. However, six of the nine losses have come in consecutive order.
The most recent being a tough three-set loss at Oakland University (25-20, 25-23 and 25-20). In the match, YSU was the first to 10 points in each set, but also ended up being outscored for the sweep.
Going forward, the calling card for the Penguins must be on the defensive side and being able to take advantage of leading in multiple sets, like in the matchup against the Golden Grizzlies.
“We have been focusing on our offense quite a bit,” Scott said. “Now, we are going back to what we believe makes us competitive: defense. That’s our focus for this upcoming week.”
Adjusting is essential for any sports team. Some adjustments are very straightforward, while others are much more difficult. One of the biggest adjustments the Penguins have made thus far is being away from home.
The Penguins host the Wright State University Raiders at Beeghly Center for the first home match this season on Friday. The previous 15 matches have all taken place away from YSU, either at the opponent’s home court or at neutral locations.
Wright State brings an overall record of 9-5 to Beeghly Center. The Raiders are 1-1 in Horizon League play, losing to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Panthers three sets to one, and beating the University of Illinois at Chicago Flames three sets to one.
The game against WSU marks the first of three consecutive matches at home for the Penguins, facing-off against the IUPUI Jaguars at 4 p.m. on Sept. 28. After that, they have a match against Northern Kentucky University at 6 p.m. on Oct. 3.
Eight of the final 14 regular season games will be played in Youngstown. The Penguins must protect home court to make up for a tough road stretch to begin the season. While home matches certainly help, it’s not the only aspect that keeps the team excited.
“Two things,” Scott said. “Our fighting spirit and watching our younger kids make a difference and get experience. The new athletes have complemented really well with the players that we returned from the Spring. Together, they have shown a lot of fight and heart through all the ups and downs.”
The Penguins hope there are many more ups than downs as the second half of the season begins, with the majority of the remaining schedule in front of the Penguin faithful.
The home opener against Wright State tips off at 6 p.m. on Friday at Beeghly Center.