YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – This fall will be a return to normality for Youngstown State University athletics.
The COVID-19 pandemic moved golf, cross country, tennis, women’s soccer and volleyball from the fall of 2020 to Horizon League-only seasons played during the first few months of this year.
Athletes this fall will return with an extra year of eligibility in their sports because of an NCAA mandate to make up for the disruption of the pandemic.
Here is a glimpse of the Penguins’ fall sports:
Coach Aline Scott, whose team was 3-11 during the league-only schedule, says the Penguins trained in the fall with face coverings to prepare for the unusual winter season.
They were used to it by the time the season started and eventually obtained masks that were more breathable.
“It wasn’t comfortable, that’s for sure,” Scott says. “They knew once we came back that was the only way in which we were going to go.
“… Honestly, they were excited to be on the court. Their attitudes were really positive for this.”
YSU has 14 returning players and four newcomers this fall as the season gets back to normal. The only hitch so far is unvaccinated players have to wear masks.
Key contributors will be seniors Josi Borum, setter and right-side hitter; Aimee Beaupre, middle blocker; and Amanda Lebioda, outside hitter.
Four-year starter Margaux Thompson graduated, and she is someone Scott says is hard to replace.
Freshmen outside hitter Paula Gursching, middle blocker Cheyenne Hlady and right-side hitter Kiyah Franklin are the team’s newcomers.
The women’s golf team won its fourth Horizon League championship on April 27 and coach Nate Miklos was named league coach of the year for the fourth time.
Katlyn Shutt was named Horizon League Player of the Year, the fifth player in team history to earn the honor, and led YSU to the NCAA regionals in Columbus – the second time the Penguins have been to this pinnacle.
Shutt will not return but YSU will have the bulk of its team back for the fall season.
“Going to be tough to fill her shoes but we’ve got a great group back,” Miklos says. “I think having that success, the opportunity to advance to regionals and play some of the best teams in the country will push us a little bit more.”
Seniors Puthita Khuanrudee and Jenna Vivo, and juniors Danae Rugola and Christina Lewis played in the league championships. Also returning are fifth-year senior Tori Utrup, junior Ally St. Clair, sophomore Madie Smithco, and senior Victoria Grans. Freshmen Lizzie Saur and Kelly Hutton are newcomers.
These Penguins come into the 2021 fall soccer season after a 1-7-1 spring campaign, looking to make strides in the Horizon League.
Graduated is goalkeeper Kate McEachern who was in the starting 11 every year she played for YSU. Senior Zeeyana Jivraj, junior Mackenzie Simon and sophomore Brooklyn Kirkpatrick all saw time in goal this past spring and look to fill that void.
The Penguins have a large group of forwards led by juniors Marcella Sizer, Abriana Rondin, Regan LaVigna, sophomore Justine Appolonia and senior Jordan Evans. Coach Brian Shrum says Abby Knight, a sophomore midfielder, had some success filling in for Evans, who was out last season with an injury.
Senior Bethany Rasile, juniors Mikayla Mustard and Kendra Pampus are mainstays on the defensive front.
The team added University of Pittsburgh transfer and sophomore midfielder Maddie Root and freshman defender Julia Csernyik from Kent State University – both players Shrum tried to recruit out of high school. They are two of 11 players the Penguins had in their recruiting class for an aggressive team ready to take to the pitch this fall.
“My philosophy and playing style revolves around a forward-thinking, high-tempo team that is looking to sustain the ball on the opposition’s half of the field,” Shrum says.
The Penguins advanced to the Horizon League finals each of their last seven postseason appearances, winning 14 of their last 15 matches before falling in the finals this spring.
Coach Mickael Sopel notched his 100th victory as YSU’s coach during a semifinal win over Milwaukee as his team had 16 dual wins, second-most in school history.
Graduated senior Tamara Teufl (Austria) and senior Cecilia Rosas (Mexico) were named second team, all-league players, while sophomore Eliska Masarikova (Czech Republic), junior Jessica Stanmore (Australia) and Rosas went a combined 24-6.
Freshmen Julia Marko (Romania), Lili Minich (Germany) and Elisa Rigazio (France) are the team newcomers.
WOMEN’S CROSS COUNTRY
Both the mens and women’s teams had an extra boost of depth on their rosters, going from 10 to 12 runners to 24 runners with a maximum of 25 allowed.
“We’re going from taking vans to charter buses,” says YSU cross country coach Brian Gorby.
Junior Morgan Cole placed fourth in the Horizon League championships in the spring and leads a recovering bunch of female distance runners. Gorby says 75% of the roster was injured at one time or another, dating back to summer 2020.
Fifth-year seniors Ashleigh Rowley, Natalie Fleming and Nicole Squatrito will return, along with junior Julie Magilocca, senior Maggie Sebest and senior Mackenzie Scott. Squatrito is returning after being out with heart issues last season.
“They wanted to come back for one more shot to win a conference championship,” Gorby says of his fifth-year seniors.
The team has five returners and four newcomers coming off a 12-9 mark, the third time in four years it has had a winning mark. YSU was 10-0 at home.
Coach Ulises Hernandez says his team members have been working during the summer in their European home countries to improve their games. From there, the team will look toward cohesive singles or doubles slots this fall – working toward the spring season.
That said, YSU might have one of the best teams in the conference on paper.
“That might change in the next few months due to players coming in January and everything,” he says.
Junior Laurentiu Mandocescu (Romania), senior Erik Gran (Sweden), junior Will Evertt (England), sophomore David Alvarez Moreno (Spain) and sophomore Asier Pena Ibanez (Spain) are the returning players.
Newcomers are junior Javier Gonzalez (Spain, and a transfer from Cowley College in Kansas), and freshmen Harry Fouzas (Greece), Nathan Favier (France) and Clement Mainguy (Vanuatu, an island between Australia and New Zealand).
MEN’S CROSS COUNTRY
Junior Chase Easterling highlights the men’s return by being the second male runner in YSU history to advance to the NCAA cross country championships. Chase competed this spring and won the Horizon League title.
“Someone who can win a championship as a sophomore is impressive,” Coach Brian Gorby says.
The Penguins return Easterling, sophomore Hunter Christopher and Ryan Meadows, along with senior Sean Peterson, sophomore Tyler Coon and fifth-year senior Derek Basinger.
Thomas Caputo, a high school state champion, and Boardman High School graduate Beau Gorby, the coach’s son, highlight the incoming freshmen.
“This is the most talented and deep team in the history of the program,” Gorby says of his men’s team.
Fifth-year senior Ken Keller and senior Bryan Kordupel made the final round of the Ohio Amateur Championship at the Penguins’ home course, Avalon Lakes Golf Course.
Redshirt sophomore Dean Austalosh made it to the third round of the Ohio Amateur while fifth-year senior Kevin Scherr qualified for the Pennsylvania Amateur Championship.
“I’m pleased with the way they’re playing,” YSU coach Tony Joy says.
Keller, Scherr and Zack Ford are returning fifth-year seniors, while C.J. Hughes and Justin Stark decided not to come back to YSU and use their extra year of eligibility.
Ford is trying to come back from a back injury, Joy says. Ford’s status this fall is in question.
Junior Cole Christman, Keller, Kordupel and Scherr are the team’s top golfers with Austalosh, sophomore Conner Stevens and former Boardman standouts – redshirt junior Cade Kreps and redshirt junior Brian Terlesky – fighting for spots.
Freshman Jake Sylak was the team’s only signee.
“This is one of my better teams, no question,” Joy says.
Pictured at top: Youngstown State women’s soccer player Kendra Pampus, left, dribbles against IUPUI’s Elizabeth Bueckers Feb. 24 in Youngstown.