Injuries Derailed YSU’s Chances at the Horizon League Tournament
By Dan Hiner
As the NCAA volleyball season comes to a close, the Youngstown State University volleyball team saw its first losing season in four years. The Penguins finished with a 10-21 record, the first losing season under head coach Mark Hardaway.
After starting the season 5-5, with loses to the University of Pittsburgh, Duquesne University and Illinois State University, the Penguins lost eight out of their next 10 games and couldn’t recover.
The team had to battle injuries to key players throughout the season. Although Hardaway would never use the injuries as an excuse for the team’s performance, he did acknowledge the teams bumps and bruises, and said the injuries weren’t the problem, but the timing of the injuries did play a part in their season.
“We had a lot things you would call bad breaks. They always seemed to come at inopportune times, and I know that sounds strange but Sam Brown gets a concussion and that happens to be in the time period where we have five matches in a short period of time,” Hardaway said. “So she misses a lot of matches because of when the concussion happened. If it had happened in a different part of the year, she wouldn’t have missed as many.
“I think it all plays a part, but still, if you want to be a team that competes for a conference championship, you have to win despite that. You have to find ways to win, and this year we could find ways to win the close ones. I think every year you play with people that are hurt. Nikki Thompson played almost the entire year with something — either a sprained ankle or she was sick for some matches. You have some kids get sick the day of the matches, but they still got to play. I don’t think you could use it as an excuse. This year, every time we had things going, something would happen and it’s just kind of a struggle. That’s why I hope the returners do take away with the fact that they kept pushing and they kept fighting.”
YSU finished last in the Horizon League in a tie with Wright State University. Hardaway said the conference was tough this season and anyone could beat any team on a given night.
Hardaway said despite the season, he was glad the team was able to win their season finale against the University of Illinois at Chicago on Nov. 14.
“Wright State here, we were kinda out of it because the match before that Saturday was the match that eliminated us from the tournament, and then Valpo was a complete train wreck. And that’s the one match where I look at and I could see — you look at the team and see that they’ve checked out for the year. That’s why I was so happy with how they responded against UIC the next match.”
Senior Nikki Thompson said even though her career at YSU has come to a close, the team is in a better position to succeed next season after the Penguins’ final game against UIC.
“The ending at UIC was definitely a boost for next year and also a good way to end our season. It was fun and it was quick … it was less sad than anything,” Thompson said.
Setter and defensive specialist Jessie Gerig echoed Thompson’s feeling toward the season finale. She said the loss to Valparaiso University the day before was “disheartening”
“Ending on UIC and sweeping them in three [sets] was great,” Gerig said. “The whole year as a sum, we didn’t play that great, ending on a note like that … it did feel a lot better.”