By Nathanael Hawthorne
Youngstown State University women’s basketball has been battling injuries all season. The young team has been put to the test this season and have still managed to reach a .500 record.
The injuries started early in the season with senior Mary Dunn and junior Emma VanZanten both getting hurt before conference play even started.
“I think Mary’s done for the year,” Penguins coach John Barnes said. “Emma’s questionable for the year; Amara’s [Chikwe] pretty much out for the year; Lexi Wagner’s out for the year.”
Junior McKenah Peters is recently back from an injury, and Barnes said the adjustment is a slow process, but she is gradually getting back to the level she was playing at.
“I think she’ll be much better for Wright State,” Barnes said.
Speaking on the inexperience of the team, Barnes believes one of the bigger challenges of the year is the number of young players who have to play. He said there are about six freshmen playing roughly 15 minutes per game, making it difficult to win games.
Barnes also said that the team did everything possible to try to avoid these injuries.
“We hired a specific company for knee [injury] prevention that a lot of big-time schools use,” Barnes said. “Luck has not been on our side this year, and you just got to try to do the best you can.”
The team has hit a bump, dropping seven of its last nine games. The next two games aren’t going to be easy, according to Barnes. He credited Wright State University, saying the team is arguably the best in the league. He cited Wright State’s athletic ability, shooting ability and its ability to create scoring opportunities, among other qualities.
Following the game against Wright State, the Penguins will square off against Northern Kentucky University. In the Horizon League, NKU is tied for second in the conference at 7-4 and has a 13-9 overall record. Also, NKU is riding a four-game win streak.
“NKU is playing some of the best basketball in the conference,” Barnes said. “They just beat Green Bay by 20 points, so it’s a big challenge.”
One bright spot in these next couple of games is that the games are in Youngstown. Starting against Wright State, the Penguins have a five-game homestand, which Barnes believes will help the team in the long run.
Barnes said the team has been on the road for such a long time, and it’s nice to be back home.
“The kids are excited to be able to sleep in their own bed, get back into class, get back into a routine. All of that is going to help us play better basketball,” Barnes said.
The Penguins will be back in action at Beeghly Center for just shy of three weeks, taking on the aforementioned teams as well as Cleveland State University, the University of Detroit Mercy and Oakland University.
Tipoff for the Wright State game is scheduled for Feb. 6 at 7 p.m.