By Ben Luli
This week in sports history showed both some national and Youngstown State University successes. On the national scene, Mets’ catcher Mike Piazza hit a go-ahead home run in New York City’s first professional game since 9/11. Back at home, the Penguins started play in their new conference. September 21, 2001 was a day of new beginnings and memorable sports moments for the Penguins.
This week in YSU sports history, we highlight the volleyball team playing the first Horizon League game in school history. YSU traveled to Dayton to face Wright State
with identical seven and one records. The Penguins would lose in straight sets to the Raiders: 30-23, 30-27, 30-27. YSU had 43 winners in the contest, with Colleen Royer and Rebecca Sylak leading the team with nine apiece. The Penguins finished the game with a .165 hitting percentage. YSU volleyball would win their Horizon league home opener Sept. 29 against Cleveland State three sets to one.
Youngstown State’s road to the Horizon League began after the 2000-2001 academic year. The Penguins participated in the Mid-Continent Conference for nine seasons before joining the Midwestern Collegiate Conference May 22. Less than two weeks later, the league rebranded as the Horizon League to emphasize a more student-centered athletics program. The move allowed the university to have more exposure to cities throughout the Great Lakes region. The conference’s affiliation with ESPN and other broadcast partners was also a contributing factor to YSU’s decision. Youngstown State became the ninth member of the conference.
Since YSU’s arrival in 2001, the Horizon League has added six schools and lost three. After being charter members of the conference in 1979, Butler and Loyola-Chicago left in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Valparaiso joined the league in 2007 and left for the Missouri Valley Conference in 2017. The current members who joined after YSU are: Oakland University (2013), Northern Kentucky (2015), IUPUI (2017) and the two newest members Purdue University Fort Wayne and Robert Morris in 2020.
YSU’s 20 years of membership in the Horizon League is the school’s longest tenure in a non-football conference. YSU football has been a member of the same conference since 1997. The Penguins joined the Gateway Football Conference in 1997 which changed its name to the Missouri Valley Football Conference after the 2007 season.