In 2009, the Horizon League limited its volleyball postseason tournament to teams which finished in the top six in the regular-season standings. That effectively kept Youngstown State out of the volleyball postseason as the Penguins posted league records of 5-11, 0-16 and 3-13 the past three seasons.
But in 2012, under first-year coach Mark Hardaway, YSU will make its first postseason appearance since 2008 when the sixth-seeded Penguins face third-seeded Valparaiso today at 7:30 p.m. at Cleveland State’s Woodling Gym.
YSU, 15-13 overall and 5-9 Horizon, had its first 15-win season since 1999. Hardaway has head coaching experience at Defiance College (1989-90), Western Kentucky (1993-94) and Evansville (1995-2002) and was most recently an assistant coach at Bowling Green.
Junior right-side hitter Missy Hundelt (St. Charles, Mo.) leads the Penguins as a member of the All-Horizon League team as voted by the league’s coaches. Hundelt is the first YSU player to be named to the all-league team since 2009.
If Hundelt can collect three digs in the league tournament, she’ll be the first Penguin to record at least 300 kills and 300 digs in the same season since 2007. She is the only player in the conference with at least 350 kills, 250 digs and 60 blocks.
Other starters for the Penguins are outside hitters Alexis Egler (So., Clarkston, Mich.) and Jackie Carlisle (Jr., Hubbard), setter Casey D’Ambrose (Jr., Addison, Ill.), and middle blockers Jenna Cavanaugh (Jr., Cold Spring, Ky.) and Shannon Watson (So., Tuscarawas Valley).
Other contributors this season have been middle blocker Alyson Ryan (Fr., Novi, Mich.), setter Erin Muir (Fr., Iowa City, Iowa), and defensive specialists Erika West (Jr., Painesville Riverside) and Nikki Thompson (Fr., Indianapolis).
YSU has played two close matches against Valparaiso (20-11, 10-4) during the regular season. The Penguins lost 25-22, 31-33, 17-25, 14-25 in Indiana on Oct. 6, and were beaten 22-25, 23-25, 25-23, 24-26, at Beeghly Center on Nov. 2.
Should YSU win, the Penguins would play top-seeded Cleveland State (21-6, 13-1) on Saturday at 4 p.m. The championship match is slated for Sunday at 2 p.m.
Illinois-Chicago (18-12, 10-4) earned the second seed while fourth-seeded Loyola (16-11, 8-6) and No. 5 Green Bay (15-13, 6-8) square off in the other first-round game today.