YSU women’s soccer team has big goals following best season in school history
By Joe Scalzo
Youngstown State’s women’s soccer team practiced for the first time on Farmers National Bank Field on Wednesday, but that’s not this season’s biggest story.
It was the first time the Penguins had a home field with regulation dimensions. That’s not the biggest story, either.
It was the first time they didn’t have to deal with a crown in the middle of the field (which caused the ball to roll to either sideline) and the first time they didn’t have to worry about what time the football team was practicing (in case they both needed to use Stambaugh Stadium) and the first time they weren’t surrounded by 20,000 empty seats.
Good things, all.
Still not the biggest story.
No, the biggest story is this: For the first time in YSU history, the Penguins are fielding a team capable of being bigger than a new field.
“This is our time to make a big move and make some noise nationally,” YSU coach Will Lemke said.
The Penguins return eight starters and 17 letterwinners from last year’s 8-9 team, which set a school record for wins. They placed fourth out of eight teams in the Horizon League and, to borrow the league motto, they’ve raised their sights.
“There’s been a lot of positive energy [about the new field] and we’re hoping to use that energy on the field,” said Lemke, whose team opens the season Friday at Niagara. “Hopefully we can make a run at the conference championship”
The new field, which sits across the street from Stambaugh Stadium, is part of a $4 million-plus soccer/track/softball complex. The soccer field — which is still missing a press box, a scoreboard and part of the outside fencing — got a big boost from Farmers in December when the Canfield-based bank donated $500,000.
“There’s been a lot of anticipation,” senior Heather Coonfare said. “Especially for the girls who have been here a couple years, we’ve been talking about it and talking about it. It’s nice to have our own field and have a place to call home.”
The Penguins went 3-13-1 three years ago and 3-10-4 in 2011, so last year’s record was the result of slow, but steady, growth.
“We’ve taken baby steps,” Coonfare said. “Maybe you don’t realize it at the time, but especially for my senior class and the fifth-year seniors, when you look back at your freshman year, there’s a world of difference.”