The Youngstown State volleyball team will begin the 2019 season by hosting the Penguin Classic at Beeghly Center this weekend. The Penguins will welcome Bucknell, The Citadel and Saint Francis U to the tournament that will feature three matches each on Friday and Saturday.

Youngstown State will begin the tournament, as well as the 45th season in program history, by hosting Saint Francis U at 2 p.m. on Friday. The Penguins will also play Bucknell on Friday at 7 p.m., and they will conclude the tournament on Saturday at 3 p.m. against The Citadel.

For the tournament’s full schedule and relevant links to the visiting teams, visit the Penguin Classic Tournament Central page here:

Fan Information and Promotions

  • Parking Information
  • Visitors Guide
  • There will be free admission for all six matches of the Penguin Classic this weekend.
  • Fans attending Friday’s Youngstown State matches will receive a YSU Volleyball Schedule Magnet, courtesy of Mercy Health.
  • The first 150 fans at YSU’s match versus The Citadel on Saturday will receive a ticket to the Youngstown State football team’s home opener that will be held on Saturday, Sept. 7.

Penguins at a Glance

  • Youngstown State adds seven newcomers and two more players who missed all of 2018 with injuries as it looks to improve on a 7-22 record in 2018.
  • There will be plenty of new contributors as only five of the 18 players on the roster appeared in more than 45 sets (out of a possible 104) last season.
  • Aline Scott enters her second season as YSU’s head coach, and she’s joined by first-year assistants Destiny Clark, Kajetan Borecki and McKenzie Reese.
  • Outside hitters Aleah Hughes and Margaux Thompson were two of the top six-rotation players in the conference in 2018. Hughes, one of four seniors on the 2019 squad, was one of two players to rank in the top 10 in the Horizon League in both kills and digs per set. Thompson, a junior, was just outside the top 10 in both categories. Hughes averaged 2.70 kills per set and 3.87 digs per set, and Thompson registered 2.46 kills and 3.56 digs per set.

Scouting the Opponents

Scouting Bucknell

  • Bucknell went 8-19 overall and 3-13 in Patriot League play in 2018. One of those losses came in four sets to Youngstown State in the championship match of the season-opening Bucknell Invitational.
  • The Bison have a solid group returning as their leaders in kills per set, assists per set, dis per set and blocks per set are all back from the 2018 squad. Sophie Bullard, Mimi Richards and Bridgette Holland each averaged at least 2.1 kills per set in 2018, and Richards was also the leader with 1.09 blocks per set. Bullard averaged a team-best 2.48 kills per set while adding 3.19 digs per set.
  • Bucknell was picked to finish seventh out of nine teams in the Patriot League preseason poll.

Scouting The Citadel

  • The Citadel was 12-19 overall and 4-12 in Southern Conference contests in 2018. The Bulldogs went 1-2 on the opening weekend last season were 5-6 heading into conference play.
  • The Bulldogs return four of their top six attackers as well as their setter and libero from last season. Junior outside hitter Sharlissa De Jesus is a Preseason All-SoCon selection after being a second-team pick in 2018. De Jesus posted 405 kills, 289 digs and 42 aces last season to rank fourth in the SoCon in kills and second in aces. Fellow junior Mellanie King contributed 2.71 kills per set in 2018.
  • The Citadel was picked to finish ninth among nine teams in a preseason poll of the Southern Conference’s head coaches.

Scouting Saint Francis U

  • Saint Francis U was 5-22 overall and 4-10 in Northeast Conference matches in 2018. Four of those 10 conference losses came in five sets.
  • Saint Francis returns its top two outside hitters from 2018 in sophomores Madi Tyus and Nicole Adams. Tyus was a Second-Team All-NEC selection as she led the Red Flash with 340 kills, while Adams averaged 2.95 kills per set. Tyus also contributed 3.49 digs per set.
  • The Red Flash were picked to finish seventh among nine teams the NEC Preseason Coaches Poll.

Up Next

  • Youngstown State will play three matches at the Cornell Invitational next weekend to begin September. The Penguins will play Niagara and the host Big Red on Sept. 6, and they’ll conclude play in Ithica, N.Y., versus Hartford on Sept. 7.

Recent Success in Non-Conference Play

  • Youngstown State has done well getting off to solid starts in non-conference play in recent years. The Penguins have won at least six non-conference matches in seven straight seasons, including winning six in 2018.
  • The Penguins won six of their first nine matches of the season and went unbeaten in the first weekend at the Bucknell Invitational. YSU picked up wins over Saint Peter’s, NJIT, Bucknell, UNLV, Duquesne and George Mason in non-conference play, and it beat Wright State in the Beeghly Center opener.

Home Heavy Schedule

  • Youngstown State is scheduled to play a school-record 15 home matches in 2019.  The previous high was 13 in 2013 and 1990.
  • In addition to playing all eight Horizon League teams at Beeghly Center, YSU will have six home matches as part of two tournaments and another non-conference contest against Kent State in 2019.

Home Non-Conference Tournaments

  • Youngstown State is hosting two non-conference tournaments for the first time in program history in 2019. YSU last hosted a similar four-team tournament in 2017.
  • Below are the results of recent tournaments at Beeghly Center:
    • 2017: Courtyard Marriott-Canfield Penguin Invitational (YSU went 1-2)
    • 2013: YSU Invitational (YSU went 1-2)
    • 2010: YSU Invitational (YSU went 1-2)
    • 2006: YSU Tournament (YSU went 2-2)
    • 2004: YSU Tournament (YSU went 2-1)

Hughes Was Impact Player In Return

  • Aleah Hughes returned after a year away from volleyball and made a major impact on the program in 2018. She led the team with 2.70 kills and 3.87 digs per set, becoming the first Penguin to lead the team in both kills and digs per set since Colleen Royer in 2003.
  • Hughes was the only player in the Horizon League to lead her team in both kills and digs per set, and she was also the only player it the conference to rank in the top 10 in both categories.
  • One of the highlights of Hughes’ season was when she posted 20 kills and 21 digs in a four-set match at Kent State on Aug. 28. It was the first time that a Penguin registered at least 20 kills and 20 digs in a match since Jessica Fraley did it in 2007.

Thompson’s Impressive First Two Years

  • Outside hitter Margaux Thompson enters her junior year with career totals of 495 kills and 672 digs. Only two Penguins (Jill Raslevich and Erika West) have had more digs in their first two years, and just five (Ruth Boscaljon, Sam Brown, Missy Hundelt, Vickie Robinson and Lori Vanbeek) have had more kills than Thompson.
  • Thompson posted 247 kills and 312 digs as a freshman in 2017, and she followed that up with 248 kills and 360 digs in 2018. She led YSU with 15 double-doubles last season, and 10 of those came in 13 non-conference matches.

Byrnes Returns as Assists Leader

  • Redshirt-sophomore Alexia Byrnes returns to the Penguins after leading the team with 484 assists and 6.63 assists per set last season. She ranked sixth in the Horizon League with those 6.63 assists per set while playing some of the season in a 6-2 offense.
  • Byrnes had nine double-doubles last season, and she was named to two all-tournament teams early in the season before she missed more than a month.
  • Redshirt-sophomore setter Libbie Darling also returns in 2019 after missing all of last season with an injury. Darling posted a team-best 5.23 assists per set over 94 sets in 2017 in a 6-2 offense.

New Starters at Libero and Middle Blocker

  • Youngstown State will have a different starting libero for the third straight season in 2019. Lauren Blanco served as the primary libero in 2016 and 2017, and Reis Zandier had the role in 2018. Freshmen Bailey Ramlow and Reilly Seagroves both had solid preseason camps and will get early chances to secure the position.
  • The Penguins will also be looking for someone to step up in the middle blocker position to help fill the void left by Sarah Varcolla’s graduation. Varcolla was the squad’s top blocker in each of the past three seasons, and she averaged 1.07 blocks per set in 2018. Erin Kalahar, who is training as a right-side hitter, is the top returning blocker from last season at 0.57 blocks per set.

New Assistant Coaches Join Scott

  • In addition to YSU having many new faces expected to contribute on the floor this season, there will also be three new assistant coaches on Aline Scott’s staff in 2019.
  • Destiny Clark joined the staff after spending the 2018 season as an assistant coach at Providence College in the Big East Conference. She was previously a head coach at the Division II level for three seasons at Newman University. Clark replaces Calaeb Campbell, who is now the head coach at Division II Ursuline College, at YSU.
  • Kajetan Borecki joins the coaching staff after a year as a volunteer assistant coach at Florida. Borecki previously coached at Division II Valdosta State. Canfield native and former College of Wooster volleyball player McKenzie Reese is serving as a volunteer assistant.

Horizon League Preseason Poll

  • Youngstown State will be out to prove the doubters wrong in 2019 as it was picked to finish last in the Horizon League preseason poll.
  • Green Bay was tabbed the preseason favorite after winning the regular-season and tournament titles in 2018. The Phoenix received five of a possible nine first-place votes and 75 total points. Green Bay was followed by Northern Kentucky, UIC, Oakland, Cleveland State, Wright State, Milwaukee, IUPUI and Youngstown State.

Penguins Earn Academic Awards in 2018

  • YSU earned the American Volleyball Coaches Association Team Academic Award for the 2018-19 season. It was the sixth straight season that the Penguins earned the award for having at least a 3.3 GP. The Penguins posted an impressive 3.551 team GPA in the 2018-19 academic year.
  • Individually, Aleah Hughes and Erin Kalahar were both named to the Horizon League All-Academic Team. It was the first time since 2014 and just the second time in program history that the Penguins had two honorees on the volleyball academic all-conference team.


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