Volleyball Begins Horizon League Home Schedule This Weekend

YSU Volleyball (Photo by Regina Thompson)
YSU Volleyball (Photo by Regina Thompson)

The Youngstown State volleyball team will the home portion of its Horizon League schedule this weekend with a pair of matches at Beeghly Center. The Penguins will host Northern Kentucky on Friday at 6 p.m., and they'll welcome conference newcomer IUPUI on Saturday at 4 p.m. Friday's match against the Norse will be streamed live on ESPN3 and WatchESPN, and live stats will be available for both matches through YSUsports.com.

Parking Notice: Due to the Youngstown State football game on Saturday night at Stambaugh Stadium, there will be parking lot restrictions for the volleyball match against IUPUI. Fans are encouraged to park in the M-60 deck at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Lincoln Avenue.

Scouting Report: YSU enters this weekend with a 7-9 record overall and an 0-2 mark in conference play. The Penguins ended non-league play with back-to-back wins against Tennessee Tech and Toledo two weeks ago, but they were swept on the road in both Horizon League matches last weekend. Sarah Varcolla leads the Penguins with 2.78 kills and 1.02 blocks per set, and Lauren Blanco's 4.18 digs per set are a team high. Margaux Thompson ranks second on the squad in both kills and digs per set as one of three freshmen who play prominent roles on the team.

Recapping Last Week: Youngstown State was swept in two matches to begin Horizon League play last weekend, falling at UIC and Green Bay. Lauren Blanco averaged an impressive 5.17 digs per set in the two matches, and she only played libero in one of those matches. YSU played without starting outside hitters Marketa Plesingrova and Margaux Thompson in both matches last weekend, which moved Blanco to the left side. Starting opposite Sam Brown missed the match at Green Bay, which forced Youngstown State to play a 5-1 offense instead of a 6-2 for the first time this season.

Blanco on Career Digs Pace: Senior Lauren Blanco is averaging a career-high 4.18 digs per set so far in 2017. 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 215 digs to become the 16th Penguin to reach 1,000 career digs. Averaging 4.18 per set, she would need to play in 52 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. Marketa Plesingrova and Margaux Thompson have combined for 24 starts in YSU's first 16 matches, and Libbie Darling has played in all 58 sets - primarily as a setter in YSU's 6-2 offense. Thompson ranks second on the team with 2.37 kills per set and 3.33 digs per set while carrying a large load in serve receive. Plesingrova averages 2.24 kills per set, which ranks third on the squad, and Darling is averaging 4.72 assists per set.

Acing The Competition: Youngstown State leads the Horizon League and ranks 58th in the country with 1.53 aces per set. The Penguins have 89 aces in 16 matches and 58 sets. They had a down week last week with just three aces in six sets. Sam Brown leads the Penguins and is tied for the league lead with 25 aces (0.45 per set). Sarah Varcolla ranks second on the team with 14 aces (0.24 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 Northern Kentucky: Northern Kentucky heads to Beeghly Center with a 5-6 overall record and a 1-1 mark in league play. The Norse outlasted Wright State for a five-set win on Saturday, and they lost in four at IUPUI on Sunday. Haley Libs ranks third in the conference with 3.52 kills per set, and Laura Crawford is seventh with 3.36 kills per set. That duo has combined for nearly 55 percent of NKU's kills this season. Northern Kentucky leads the league and ranks fourth in the country with 18.5 digs per set.

Scouting IUPUI: IUPUI won the first two matches in its Horizon League history last weekend, beating Wright State in five sets on Friday and NKU in four on Sunday. The first-year members of the conference are 6-9 overall and are among the top defensive squads in the league. The Jaguars rank second in the conference with 2.20 blocks per set, and they are third with 16.77 digs per set. Kori Waelbroeck is the reigning Horizon League Offensive Player of the Week after averaging 4.44 kills and 3.00 digs per set last week.