By Steve Wilaj
Youngstown State volleyball coach Mark Hardaway understands that, in the public eye, his team is judged by wins and losses.
But Hardaway and his staff approach the game-to-game grind in a different way.
“We really judge everything by how we play and I know it’s tough because in athletics you’re always judged by wins,” he said.
So following Saturday’s 3-1 loss to Loyola at the Beeghly Center, Hardaway looked past the Penguins loss, and evaluated his team’s performance.
Unfortunately for Hardaway, his judgments weren’t reassuring.
“I thought today we were flat, we didn’t play hard and made a lot of unforced errors,” he said. “It’s not the loss that’s disappointing, it’s how we played.”
Following their first Horizon League victory against Illinois-Chicago on Friday, the Penguins (11-7, 1-3) scored the first three points of the opening set. From then on, it was all Ramblers.
“It might have been the game last night,” Hardaway said. “It might have been we didn’t prepare right. It’s hard to say.”
Junior outside hitter Missy Hundelt agreed YSU came out flat.
“Loyola was a little lower last year and I think we kind of sat back thinking we’d have it,” Hundelt said. “We didn’t come out and play our game.”
After winning the first set 25-16, Loyola (11-6, 3-1) edged the Penguins in the second set, 25-23.
“After the first two sets, we talked about enjoying the moment,” Hardaway said. “Especially at home, if you want people to come watch you, you have to be excited.”
With the pep talk, YSU took the third set, 25-16.
“Knowing that we needed to win the set, otherwise it’s over, gave us some energy,” Hundelt said. “That’s the mindset we need at all times.”
But the Ramblers bounced back, winning the fourth set, 25-19. Anna Eytchison led Loyola with 22 kills and 10 digs. For the Penguins, Hundelt and Shannon Watson each had 11 kills, while Hundelt added 12 digs as well.
“It’s a long season,” Hardaway said. “You’re gonna win some and lose some.”
YSU will hit the road next weekend, with conference games at Wright State and Valparaiso.
“We’ll be working on the easy points,” Hardaway said. “There’s a lot of balls that come over slow paced and we need to do a better job of picking those up and converting the points. And we’ll also focus on keeping the unforced errors down.”
Under first-year coach Hardaway, YSU has already passed its win total of the last two seasons combined (seven). Still, the Penguins are currently seventh out of eight teams in the conference standings.
“We need to stress being consistent and worry about our side,” Hundelt said. “I think if we can worry about what we’re doing, we’ll come together as a team and get more wins.”