By Joe Scalzo
Three years ago, when Liz Hornberger was a freshman in the midst of a 6-24 season, she worried that some people at Youngstown State thought she was anti-social because she didn’t want to talk during losing streaks.
She’s gotten (a little) better at handling the losses since then.
“Being a leader on the team, you have to learn how to swallow things and I think I’ve done a better job of that,” she said. “I hate talking about losses. I like moving on or trying to move on.
“One thing I’m really starting to realize is every one of these losses this year, we have to learn from them. I hate this mentality, but you have to try to accept that these games before conference are just chances to learn, so when it comes to conference time, when it really matters, you’re a better team.”
With a first-year coach (John Barnes), a lineup decimated by injuries and a big void in the lineup due to Brandi Brown’s graduation, the Penguins have stumbled to a 1-4 start, with three of the losses by 15 points or more.
“I want to win these games more than anyone else, but I’m not going to throw them away just because we lost,” Hornberger said. “You have to grow up from them. I think we are growing up. But it stinks to have to lose and learn instead of win and learn from them.”
Hornberger said the team’s attitude has improved — she said seniors Karen Flagg and Melissa Thompson in particular are both showing more leadership — but said some of the team’s flaws have been revealed in Brown’s absence.
“We didn’t have just one or two flaws last year,” Hornberger said. “Brandi covered up a lot of them and we’re learning them one by one.
“Everyone has to step up and we have to find out these little flaws and fix them by conference play or this season’s not going to be successful.”
YSU plays its next four games at home, starting Wednesday against Miami (Ohio), which is just 1-5 with its first-year head coach (Cleve Wright). The Penguins then play four more non-conference games before opening the Horizon League slate at Valparaiso on Jan. 9.
Hornberger is the team’s most honest player in interviews — and the one who seems to takes losses the hardest — but said she’s learning from her mistakes and appreciates her teammates’ encouragement so far. (“Because I need it,” she said.)
When asked if the team still believes it can win every game it plays, she said, “Oh, yeah. Looking back at all the games — West Virginia, OK, maybe not. I still think we should have won. I think we could have won all the games.
“We’re in a major change right now. We’re not going to be perfect. We weren’t perfect last year, we’re by no means perfect this year. So we have to grow up and accept that mistakes are going to be made and just got to get better by January.”