By Kathryn Rogers-Vadala
The Youngstown State University volleyball team earned its first playoff berth in the Horizon League Volleyball Championship since 2014 following a historic regular season. For the first time in program history, Youngstown State collected eight conference wins with five coming from road matches.
An Oakland University loss to Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne on Nov. 11 clinched Youngstown State the sixth and final seed in the conference championship. This season also brings head coach Aline Scott’s first playoff appearance while at Youngstown State.
The Penguins returned to Beeghly Center to finish off their regular season, first against Northern Kentucky University on Nov. 11 and Wright State University on Nov. 12.
Despite the swept defeat to Northern Kentucky, more records were broken by sophomore outside hitter Paula Gursching, as she became the fastest Penguin to reach 1000 career kills. She posted a team-high 14 kills to achieve the feat and currently holds the second-place position in Division I in total kills this season with 562.
Senior setter Josi Borum was shy of her 11th triple-double as she marked 10 kills, 15 assists and nine digs in the contest. Senior libero Isidora Sisic contributed a team-high 13 digs, as well as three aces.
The Norse shut down the Penguins at the net as they accumulated 13 blocks compared to Youngstown State’s six and earned eight more kills.
Scott said the team could not stop Northern Kentucky’s strong offensive and defensive presence.
“They’re really great blockers, and I think they were able to hold our attackers today to lower numbers than we’re used to, so between their blocking and their offensive power, there was not much we could do,” Scott said.
Youngstown State closed out its regular season on senior day, Nov. 12, against the number one team in the Horizon League, the Wright State Raiders, falling in straight sets.
Senior outside hitters Ellie Cox and Amanda Lebioda tied a team-high three kills against the Raiders, while sophomore setter Isabel Shaefbauer notched 19 assists. At the net, five of the team’s six blocks came from Cox and senior middle blockers Aimee Beaupre and Nadia Pace.
Youngstown State finished its regular season at 14-15, with a program-best 8-10 Horizon League record.
Shaefbauer discussed the regular season and what the team has done to give itself a chance in the conference tournament.
“We did a really good job of regrouping for the second half of conference play. I think we really showed who we are as a team and what we’re capable of, just the fight that we have and the competitiveness,” Shaefbauer said.
The team will begin postseason play Nov. 18 as it travels to Dayton, Ohio to face the third-seeded University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. The match begins at 3 p.m. and can be watched live on ESPN+.