By Brandon Terlecky
Youngstown State University is a Division I college with nearly 12,000 undergraduate students. These students come from blue collar families and grow up learning the true meaning of grit. To put it simply, Youngstown is a die-hard sports town.
The YSU Penguins football team ended their season with a record of 4-7 and sixth place in the Missouri Valley Conference. Although they didn’t have the season they were hoping for, it wasn’t a complete bust.
Dave Kreader, a YSU alumnus, had a lot to say about the football team overall.
“They’re good,” he said. “They have talent, you know. It’s not always going to be the season you want. Unfortunately, this was one of those seasons.”
Kreader said he believes people need to be patient and the team will have the potential to be where they were in 2016 — competing for a national championship.
“It all takes time. Bo is a good coach and we have some recruits that look promising,” he said.
When asking everyone about what their thoughts on YSU sports, it seemed football was the talk of the town — until I met Judy Pavalko, an RN at Mercy Health who has held season tickets for the women’s basketball team since 2006, who spoke about the previous seasons she has witnessed.
“They were rough,” Pavalko said. “People love the sports around here, even if it doesn’t seem like it, they really do.”
Pavalko and her husband Bob Pavalko follow most of the sports in the area, but women’s basketball was always the at the top and she is loving the way the season is turning out.
“It’s remarkable to see what is happening right now. It is so good for our city. When we are winning, it helps. This city faces so much adversity and criticism so this is good for us,” Pavalko said.
The women’s basketball team is on a tear this season with a current record of 20-6 and 12-3 in the conference, losing only one game at home. There is no doubt that this is a special time for the program and the city, and it is something the city should all start paying attention to.
John Vogel, assistant director of athletic communications at YSU, said he’s been through all the ups and downs as he enters his 11th year working with the women’s basketball team.
“It’s rewarding for sure. I can remember the rough days back when we were not doing so hot,” Vogel said.
The women are doing great not only on the court but off the court as well, holding one of the best overall GPAs the program has seen in quite some time.
“It’s great to see the girls doing so well in all three areas,” Vogel said.
He said the women’s basketball team is fortunate to have people filling the stands, outdrawing most universities when it comes to attendance.
“It’s not fair that people say we have low attendance, women’s basketball in general struggles, not just us. We have great attendance compared to other schools,” Vogel said.
The women have outdrawn University of Wisconsin – Green Bay, a team that has consistently been a contender for years. Another eyebrow raiser is how the team is outdrawing the University of Pittsburgh, a big name team in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The fact is that people care about YSU sports, and people are excited to see what is in store for the rest of the women’s basketball season and how much damage they can do come tournament time in March.