The Youngstown State Department of Intercollegiate Athletics will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the 1995-96 YSU women's basketball team that advanced to the NCAA Tournament on Feb. 27. The ceremony will take place at halftime of the Penguins' game against UIC, which begins at 4:30 p.m. at Beeghly Center.
The 1995-96 women's basketball team was the first Penguins team to advance to the NCAA Tournament, and it set the stage for YSU qualifying for the tournament three times in a five-year span. The group, which was led by Coach Ed DiGregorio and seniors Shelly Allen and Christina Ferraro, set the standard for the program that still exists 20 years later.
"Our team this season was as close a unit as any that I have ever coached," DiGregorio said after the season. "They were a family that did everything together both on and off the court, so the chemistry that was developed was not by accident. While we started slow, we finished fast, and that is a tribute to our squad because they never quit along the way."
The team won just three of its first eight games, and it had a 7-7 record through 14 games before it went on a magical run. The Penguins committed to the starting lineup of junior Liz Hauger and sophomores Shannon Beach, Colleen Cook, Caroline McCombs and Ann Marie Martin, and they proceeded to win 13 of their next 14 games.
YSU won the Mid-Continent Conference regular season title outright for the first time with a 14-4 league record, and it swept through the conference tournament with double-digit victories over Western Illinois, Troy and Buffalo. The Penguins were selected as a No. 15 seed and paired with No. 2 seed Penn State, and YSU trailed just 50-49 with 15 minutes left before the Nittany Lions pulled away for a 94-71 victory. YSU finished the season with a 20-9 record for its first of five consecutive 20-win seasons.
The game on Feb. 27 will also be Senior Day for Janae Jackson as the Penguins play their final regular-season home game. YSU will play at Beeghly Center on Feb. 20 and Feb. 25 before concluding its three-game home stand on Feb. 27.