Parting Ways

Youngstown State women's basketball at Cincinnati in the first round of the WNIT. The contest was played at Fifth Third Arena on March 25, 2019. (Photo by Rob Hayes)

Michael Evanko
Jambar Contributor

Talk about a season to remember. The Youngstown State University women’s basketball program just achieved one of the best seasons in school history.

Finishing the season 22-10 and 13-5 in Horizon League play, the Penguins were led by three key seniors, Sarah Cash, Alison Smolinski and Melinda Trimmer.

The three seniors played a huge role in guiding the Penguins to the Horizon League and Women’s National Invitation Tournament this year. The trio all averaged over 23 minutes per game and ranked first, second and fifth on the team in total points.

Smolinski is currently ranked eighth in the NCAA in three pointers made and Trimmer currently ranks top 40 in the NCAA in turnover to assist ratio.

The Penguins’ season was a wake up call to not only the city of Youngstown, but to seniors Cash and Smolinski.

“I expected us to have a successful season and be competitive every game, but I didn’t think we would have been as good as we were after losing the players we did from last year’s team,” Cash said.

The Penguins finished the season with a record of 22-10. This is the first time they have finished with positive record since the 2015-2016 season where coincidentally Cash, Smolinski and Trimmer were important role players, all playing in 30 or more games in their early careers.

“I can honestly say I didn’t think we were going to be this successful and have such a memorable and historic season like we did,” Smolinski said. “I think after beating Pitt and that huge Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis win made us realize that we had something special to bring this year.”

Fast forward to this past season, the trio averaged over 23 minutes per game. Their role on the team being magnified as they went from new recruits to veteran seniors. Even with being on the team for four years, the women are as humble as they come.

“I feel like I played well,” Cash said. “There were definitely some games that I feel like I could have played better, but overall, I am happy with how I finished my career.”

Smolinski missed most of last season with an injury, and she came into this season with a nothing to lose attitude.

“I told myself over and over in the summer that this was it for me,” Smolinski said. “It was my last season ever as a Penguin. I didn’t want to have any regrets, especially coming off that injury from my junior year, I was hungry to get out there and give everything I had left in me for this YSU program. However the main goal of winning that league title was not achieved, I still can say this was the most memorable and exciting season I’ve ever had at YSU.”

Trimmer, who saw a significant boost in playing time from the last three seasons, emerged as one of the best guards in the Horizon League.

“I think I gave this season every ounce of energy I had, and I am pleased with how my efforts came together on the court,” Trimmer said.

Reflecting on the marvelous careers of the seniors, it doesn’t take long to find an achievement from a long list that is both meaningful and noteworthy. Cash and Trimmer both referred to beating Green Bay this past season.

Photos courtesy of YSU Sports Information

“My biggest achievement was breaking the school record for career field goal percentage, but beating Green Bay at home and going to the WNIT twice is also at the top,” Cash said.

Smolinski, who hardly acknowledged her personal achievements during the season, finally reflected on one of her many milestones.

“I’m not one for personal achievements, but I’d say my biggest achievement was getting to the 1000-point mark,” Smolinski said.

When talking about what is the one thing that they will each miss most about playing for YSU a common phrase was used between them, “family.” It goes to show you that these seniors were not just at YSU to play basketball, but to be part of something bigger.

“Although I will obviously miss the sport, I will more so miss that family part of being on a team and getting to play the sport I love with my teammates that became sisters right beside me,” Smolinski said. “Basketball has given me forever friends, and the memories I have made with those amazing girls will have a special place in my heart forever.”

Although their presence on the basketball court was impactful, their future life plans may affect the world on a bigger scale.

Cash is pursuing a career in the engineering field, but wants to coach elementary-aged girls sometime in her future. Smolinski, majoring in special education, still has another year to go at YSU.

“I actually have one more year of school next year,” Smolinski said. “I could not do student teaching in season so that is the reasoning for that. However, I’m beyond grateful for YSU giving me a fifth-year aid for these circumstances and will surely be at some games next year supporting my girls.”

Trimmer is currently waiting to hear back about her acceptance into various medical schools.

It’s safe to say if the trio attacks their futures much like they did their basketball careers, then their impact at Beeghly Center won’t amount to the impact they leave off the court.