Volleyball Hosts Cleveland State Friday, Travels to Oakland on Sunday

Dana Borsz (Photo by Regina Thompson)
Dana Borsz (Photo by Regina Thompson)

The Youngstown State volleyball team will conclude a three-match homestand on Friday evening when it hosts Cleveland State at 6 p.m. at Beeghly Center. The Penguins will then travel to Oakland for a Sunday afternoon contest against the Golden Grizzlies at 4 p.m.. Both matches will be streamed live on ESPN3/WatchESPN, and live stats links will be available through YSUsports.com.

Scouting Report: YSU enters this weekend with a 7-11 record overall and an 0-4 mark after two weeks of Horizon League play. The Penguins ended non-league play with back-to-back wins against Tennessee Tech and Toledo three weeks ago, but they have dropped 12 of the first 13 sets to start conference play. YSU hasn't been at full strength in nearly a month due to various injuries to key players. Last week, setter Heather Splinter missed both matches and Sam Brown missed Friday's contest against Northern Kentucky. Sarah Varcolla leads the Penguins with 2.75 kills and 1.08 blocks per set, and she's one of four YSU players averaging at least two kills per set. Lauren Blanco is averaging 4.36 digs per set overall, and her 5.54 digs per set average in league matches is tops in the conference.

Recapping Last Week: Youngstown State lost its two Horizon League matches at Beeghly Center last weekend, falling in four sets to Northern Kentucky and in three to IUPUI. Against NKU, Margaux Thompson had 14 kills and 15 digs to lead a balanced offensive attack that saw five different Penguins register at least eight kills. YSU took the first set 25-22 but dropped the next three 25-16, 25-23, 25-22. Youngstown State then lost 25-11, 25-10, 25-21 to IUPUI on Saturday. Lauren Blanco had 17 digs versus IUPUI to follow up a 24-dig effort against the Norse.

Blanco on Career Digs Pace: Senior Lauren Blanco is averaging a career-high 4.36 digs per set so far in 2017, and she leads the Horizon League with an average of 5.54 digs per set in conference play. She averaged 3.21 digs per set overall and 3.93 per set in league play last year in her first stint as the team's libero. Only four players in program history have averaged at least 4.0 digs per set over an entire season – Jill Raslevich (twice), Nikki Thompson (twice), Jen Windau and Laurie Shives. Blanco needs 174 digs to become the 16th Penguin to reach 1,000 career digs. Averaging 4.36 per set, she would need to play in 40 more sets to get to 1,000.

Freshmen Playing Major Role: Youngstown State has three freshmen on its roster who are playing prominent roles on the team. Margaux Thompson has started all 16 matches in which she's been active, and she ranks second on the team with 2.43 kills and 3.31 digs per set. Marketa Plesingrova ranks third on the squad with 2.26 kills per set, and Libbie Darling has played in every set as a setter in a 6-2 offense or as a defensive specialist.

Acing The Competition: Youngstown State leads the Horizon League and ranks 74th in the country with 1.48 aces per set. The Penguins have 96 aces in 65 sets overall, but they have slowed down to 10 aces in 13 sets in league play. Sam Brown leads the Penguins and ranks second in the league with 25 aces (0.43 per set). Brown has moved into the top 10 in program history with 127 career aces. She needs two more aces to crack the top five, and the school record is 165 by Lori Longo (1986-89).

Scouting Cleveland State: Cleveland State was the preseason favorite to win the Horizon League, and the Vikings have begun conference play by splitting four matches. The Vikings have four-set wins over Milwaukee and IUPUI and four-set losses to UIC and Wright State. Cleveland State, which is 9-6 overall, is led offensively by Alexis Middlebrooks, who averages 3.18 kills per set on a .336 attack percentage. Gina Kilner and Shannon Grega rank third in the conference in assists and digs per set, respectively. The Vikings lead the league in kills per set and hitting percentage.

Scouting Oakland: Oakland is 7-9 overall and 2-2 so far in Horizon League play. The Golden Grizzlies lost road matches at Green Bay and Milwaukee to begin the conference slate but rebounded to beat Wright State and Northern Kentucky last weekend at home. Oakland is the league's top blocking team at 2.56 blocks per set, and Krysteena Davis leads the circuit individually with 1.51 per set. Darien Bandel leads the league in kills per set with 4.38. Oakland will host Cleveland State on Saturday.

Up Next: Next week, Youngstown State will host Wright State in a midweek match on Wednesday at 6 p.m. The Penguins will then travel to Milwaukee on Saturday, Oct. 14, for a 5 p.m. Eastern contest against the Panthers.