By Brian Yauger
The Youngstown State University women’s basketball team got its season of to a good start with a 69-59 win in overtime over the Robert Morris University Colonials.
It was Melinda Trimmer’s game-tying jumper that pushed the game into overtime. YSU outscored RMU, 13-3, in OT.
The Penguins now have an all-time series lead over Robert Morris, winning 17 of the 23 total contests between the two teams.
Head coach John Barnes, returning for his sixth season, notes the season has been starting earlier and earlier, but the new NCAA rules regarding practicing have made that earlier start a bit easier to manage.
“It does seem like the season is starting earlier and earlier every year,” Barnes said. “But since the NCAA has allowed us to work with our players pretty much all year round, [it] makes it a little easier to start. I’m kind of old-fashioned, where I liked the Oct. 15 across the board, that would be the start of practice, and the games would be a month later, but that’s kind of old school.”
Sarah Cash returns to the Penguins for her fifth and final season, capping off what will be one of the best careers in YSU women’s basketball history.
Cash is on pace to set the record for career field goal percentage, and is in the top-20 all-time in multiple categories. She was also selected to the first-team preseason all Horizon League roster.
“She’s one of the smartest players I’ve ever coached,” Barnes said. “I think being another year out from that knee injury, she’s going to be even better. Very similar to her first year at YSU when she had to come off of a knee injury from her senior year of high school.”
Making the second-team preseason all Horizon League roster was sophomore Chelsea Olsen. Olsen scored a career-high 26 points at Cleveland State University last season, the highest total by a league freshman that season and the most by a YSU freshman since 1995.
In YSU’s win, Olson shone very bright with 13 points, 14 rebounds, four assists and a block on the night.
“It’s really nice to get that redemption,” Olson said. “We’ve been working really hard on rebounding and I think we outrebounded them.”
YSU grabbed 41 rebounds to RMU’s 35 including 15 offensive rebounds.
The Penguins are also returning Alison Smolinski, who missed a large portion of last season with a foot injury. In her time on the court last season before the injury, she was averaging 10.6 points per game and led the team with 25 3-pointers, and was the team’s leading scorer in the season prior.
“I put a lot of work in during the offseason,” Smolinski said. “Jenna, our trainer, and Jake, our strength and conditioning coach, really got my foot back to normal. Last year was a bit of a freak accident so I kinda want to just go right back where I left off.”
The Colonials are returning their guard duo they refer to as the “Splash Sisters.” Sophomore guards Megan Callahan and Honoka Ikematsu broke out last season as two of the top 3-point threats in the Northeast Conference, finishing fourth and third, respectively in conversion rate from beyond the arc.
The Penguins start at home for the sixth season in a row, something that Barnes isn’t complaining about.
“I think defensively to hold them to 59 with an overtime period is pretty good,” Barnes said about defense and rebounding. “That was probably our No. 1 key outside of toughness. They outrebounded us by 20 or 21 last year. That was a huge key for us with Chelsea with 14 and Sarah Cash doing her thing.”
YSU has a quick turnaround as they host Loyola University Chicago on Nov. 9 at 7 p.m. at the Beeghley Center.