The Penguins (0-2) will entertain Kent State in the season home opener at Beeghly Center
By PETE MOLLICA
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN — Youngstown State women’s basketball coach Cindy Martin knew she had major task ahead of her this season, just her second with the Penguins, but so far it has developed into even more than she expected.
The Penguins struggled through a 3-27 season a year ago in her first year as head coach, so Martin brought in seven new faces through her recruiting process.
But the team has been crippled by injuries even before the season began and Martin now finds herself with only seven healthy players out of the original 12-player roster.
The Penguins opened the season last weekend with back-to-back games in North Carolina, losing both to Elon 86-66 and to High Point 73-50 and even Martin admits that the back-to-back games really took its toll on her limited roster.
Tonight the Penguins face an even tougher opponent in Kent State. The teams will tip-off at 5:15 p.m. as the opening game of a doubleheader at Beeghly Center. The YSU men and Kent men will meet in the second game at 7:35.
“We learned a lot last weekend and it’s also good to note that we won’t have to play back-to-back games like that again,” Martin said. “There is only so much we can do in practice with the limited roster.
Of the seven players that Martin brought into the program this year, three of them are currently unable to play, two of them will miss the entire season and Martin has no idea when the third will be available.
Youngstown native and junior college transfer Tiera Jones will sit out this season to get her academics up to the NCAA requirements, while freshman Melissa Thompson from Solon is out for the season with an injury. Junior college transfer Shea Johnson is currently recovering from a back injury that could possibly keep her out of the action for the season.
Senior Kaitlyn March is the closest of the four to returning to action. She’s nursing an ankle injury and tried to play over the weekend, but was limited to just a few minutes of action.
“Right now we’re going with seven players and we’re limited to what we do,” Martin said. “We did not press at all in our first two games because with back-to-back games we just couldn’t overextend ourselves.”
Martin had tried to add practice players to the roster even before the season began.
“We had fliers up for the past two months and have had a couple of tryouts, but the requirements are really tough to add players and we really haven’t been able to find someone that we felt comfortable adding to the roster,” she added.
Still Martin feels confident that her remaining Penguins can do the job.
“We got some great play out of freshman Brandi Brown in our first two games and senior Rachael Manuel had the best game of her career last Saturday,” she added.
The Penguins have been led by junior transfer Bojana Dimitrov or Serbia who averaged 16 points in the first two games including 21 in the opener with Elon.
She along with Manuel and Brown will be joined by sophomore Macey Nortey and sophomore Kenya Middlebrooks in the starting lineup.
Kent (1-0) beat Robert Morris 62-57 in its opener last Friday. The Flashes have a local player in their lineup, former Howland High graduate Ellie Shields. Shields scored 14 points against Robert Morris.