By Joe Scalzo
Less than a month before his first game, Youngstown State women’s basketball coach Bob Boldon said his team is “nowhere near capable of winning a game today.”
“Nor should we be,” he said.
On the other extreme is junior guard Liz Hornberger, who said, “Any loss is not acceptable to me. I plan on winning conference this year. I hope my teammates feel the same.
“Anything short of that is not a good season to me.”
While the two views aren’t necessarily contradictory — Boldon is talking about the present, Hornberger the future — the Penguins should probably be aiming for the middle.
With eight new players on the roster — a ninth, junior college transfer Wendi Mitchell has already left the team — and just two seniors, YSU would do well to finish in the top half of the nine-team Horizon League.
After trying to out-shoot conference rivals last season, Boldon believes he has upgraded the team’s athleticism, which should help the Penguins’ defense.
“Last year we had to score a lot of points to win games,” said Boldon, who went 10-20. “We weren’t good enough defensively.”
Senior Brandi Brown, a second team all-conference pick the past two seasons, is one of three returning starters and will pair with sophomore Heidi Schlegel to form a talented frontcourt.
Hornberger will move from shooting guard to point guard — a more natural position considering she’s 5-foot-7 and slender — but YSU’s backcourt remains a concern. Last year’s starting point guard, Kelsea Fickiesen, left the team after the season and talented redshirt freshman Ashley Lawson is probably out for two months with a deep bone bruise.
“Our guards have a lot of work to do to get to the level that Horizon League guards play at,” said Boldon, whose team was picked to finish eighth in the preseason poll. “They’re working hard and I think they’ll get there.
“We’re talking about getting there in January and it’s October. We have a lot of things we need to do between now and then. If we do those things, we can be as good as anybody in the conference but we can’t beat anybody in the conference today. I’m sure of it.”
The Penguins have increased their wins from zero in 2009-10 to six in 2010-11 and 10 last season, so the goal is take another step forward this season. But after finishing last season with nine straight losses, expectations are higher inside the program than outside.
Brown said it’s her job to make sure the newcomers meet those expectations.
“I think it’s all about making sure to communicate what the rules are, what the standards are,” Brown said. “Knowing the right and wrong way to play. Knowing every day in practice we have a standard and if we don’t meet that standard, it’s a loss for us.
“I want to go out really strong. I want this season to be memorable because we win games and because we go really far in the tournament and we get it done on the court.”