Coach: YSU volleyball team ready to make noise

By Greg Gulas


When Aline Scott took over the reins of the Youngstown State volleyball program last December, her goal was to play a challenging non-conference slate in order get ready for league play.

As the Penguins prepare for their initial Horizon League games this weekend at Cleveland State on Friday and Oakland on Saturday, Scott said she feels like her team is now prepared to make some noise in the challenging Horizon League.

While addressing the Curbstone Coaches during Monday’s weekly meeting at Avion Banquet Center, Scott said the Penguins’ non-conference schedule has helped them grow as a team.

“It has been an excellent pre-conference season for us,” she said. “With this being my first year, I needed to see different line-ups in order watch how they performed under pressure. While we’ve had our share of common injuries and illnesses that seem to occur over the course of a season, I feel like we are ready to go and am anxiously looking forward to this weekend.”

The Penguins are currently 6-7 overall, winning their first three matches and four of their first five outings under Scott but will enter conference play looking to break a four-game tailspin.

They are coming off back-to-back losses to Mid-American Conference foes Toledo and Akron at last week’s Zip Invitational.

“We battled but lost two close matches to Toledo and Akron, teams I feel are similar to us and what we expect to see the remainder of the conference season,” she said. “Cleveland State and Oakland University were the top two teams in the league last year and while we will have our work cut out for us, we are ready to get the league portion of our schedule underway.”

The Penguins are coming off back-to-back 8-22 campaigns and are just 3-29 – they were 1-15 last year and 2-14 in 2016 – in conference play the past two years.

They’ll look to improve those marks with a team that boasts just two seniors and six upperclass members on its 16-player roster.

“Outside hitters Aleah Hughes of nearby Western Reserve High School and Margaux Thompson have both played well over the past four weeks,” Scott said. “Middle blocker Sarah Varcolla is one of two seniors on the team and has provided great leadership during the early going.”

The insertion of two new setters into the line-up has also made a big difference.

“Red-shirt freshman Alexia Byrnes, a transfer from the University of Louisville and junior Giovanna Kuntze, a transfer from Seward Community College in Kansas have both played really well to date,” Scott said. “Byrnes currently has mononucleosis, will be lost for several weeks but Kuntze, who has seen ample plying time, filled in admirably last weekend and the team didn’t skip a beat.

“They are the core and anchors of the team.”

Hughes’ 25 kills against Toledo was the most for a Penguin since the 2011 season.

“We’ve never had a triple-double in program history and through our first 13 matches, almost accomplished that feat twice,” she said. “Giovanna had 51 assists, 17 digs and nine kills against Toledo to almost etch her name in the record book while two weeks earlier, with almost identical numbers, Alexia also fell a kill shy of her triple-double.

“Our outside hitters and setters have played well and to have two near triple-doubles in the same season is very encouraging.”

Scott said the goal the remainder of the season is quite simple.

“This is a group that is coming into their own and at just the right time,” she said. “We’ve used the pre-season to fine tune everything and prepare for league play. Our goal is to qualify for the Horizon League tournament, something we haven’t done in five years. You must finish in the top-six in the league to do so and after you qualify, then it’s a new season for everyone.”

Next Monday, YSU soccer coach Brian Shrum will serve as guest speaker.