By Andrew Peterson
Youngstown State University women’s basketball team’s season came to an end March 2 with a loss to Northern Kentucky University.
The team lost to the Norse, 59-58 in the Barbasol Horizon League Quarterfinals in the final seconds of the game.
The women finished with a record of 19-11 overall and a 13-7 conference record. Head coach John Barnes commented on the season’s conclusion.
“Nineteen wins is a solid season. I think we had our sights set a little bit higher. I think we had a little bit of a sluggish finish, we might have peaked a little bit early. I think overall we worked hard, we played as hard as we possibly could,” Barnes said.
The women had an 8-3 start to the year. With some players in big roles on the team graduating, Barnes said the team will be looking to the transfer portal for players.
“The transfer portal just opened up on [March] 13, so any positions that we have open we’re looking in the transfer portal,” Barnes said.
Mady Aulbach, a senior guard, spoke about her thoughts and expectations following the season.
“Being picked preseason number one, there was definitely a different mindset going into each season. I think people wanted to play a little bit harder against us because we did have a target on our back,” Aulbach said.
Youngstown State is losing a key player in fifth-year senior Lilly Ritz. Ritz played a vital role as she led the team in scoring the past two seasons. She averaged just under 17 points per game in the 2021-22 season and averaged 17.4 points per game in the 2022-23 season.
Ritz is the first Penguin to be named Defensive Player of the Year in any conference, and she’s the second Youngstown State player to be named to the All-Horizon League First Team twice.
“It’s easy to get those accolades when you have great teammates and I think just me getting so close to my teammates and just doing so well — last year we were picked seventh, and we ended up tied for number one,” Ritz said.
Barnes said the women’s team has plans to make up for the loss of Ritz.
“We have Emily Saunders who’s a transfer from the University of Tennessee, and Jenn Wendler will be a senior next year … Lindsey Linard is a 6-foot-4 player who shot very well this year in the minutes that she got,” Barnes said.
The women’s team had a down year in comparison to the 2021-22 season, but Barnes has high expectations for next season, like winning another NCAA Championship. Barnes said there is one thing the women want to focus on going into next year.
“Be more consistent, I think we were a little bit up and down throughout the year and it probably cost us in the end,” Barnes said.
The team is already getting back to work by starting post-season workouts, strength and conditioning training and individual workouts.
The women’s basketball team also led the Horizon League in Name, Image and Likeness earnings. For more information on who the top-three earners were, visit thejambar.com or pick up the March 2 edition of The Jambar.