Volleyball Hosts Saint Francis U on Tuesday in 2015 Home Opener

Jessie Gerig (Photo by Ron Stevens)
Jessie Gerig (Photo by Ron Stevens)

The Youngstown State volleyball team will play its earliest home opener in program history when it hosts Saint Francis U on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Beeghly Center. The match will be streamed live on ESPN3 and the Watch ESPN App. The Penguins will also play three matches in Pittsburgh this weekend as part of the Pitt/Duquesne Invitational.

The Penguins enter the second week of the 2015 season after going 1-2 at the Toledo Rocket Invitational over the weekend. YSU dropped a five-setter on Friday to Bradley, and it split a pair of sweeps on Saturday. Youngstown State lost in three sets to Portland in the morning before responding to sweep Toledo in the afternoon. Junior Val Jeffery, the Preseason Horizon League Setter of the Year, was named to the all-tournament team, and newcomers Lori Vanbeek and Sarah Varcolla impressed in their Penguins debuts.

YSU has posted winning records in three consecutive seasons for the first time in school history, and four starters and the libero return from last year's team that won 17 matches – a program high since 1999. Vanbeek and Varcolla are two of seven Penguins who are either new to the program or coming off redshirt seasons.

YSU will play at Pitt on Friday evening at 7, and the match will be streamed live on pittsburghpanthers.com. The Penguins will then play Duquesne at noon and Colgate at 5 p.m. at Duquesne's A.J. Palumbo Center on Saturday. YSU's football team will also be playing in Pittsburgh on Saturday against the Panthers at 1 p.m.

Scouting Report

  • YSU has posted winning records in three straight seasons for the first time in school history. All three have been under Mark Hardaway.
  • YSU returns four starters and its libero from last year's team that went 17-14 and advanced to the Horizon League Tournament semifinals.
  • Val Jeffery is the reigning Horizon League Setter of the Year, and Sam Brown was an All-Freshman Team selection last year.
  • Senior Aly Ryan has 327 career blocks, the ninth-most in school history. Her 104 last year are the most among returning players in the HL.
  • Senior Nikki Thompson set the school record for digs in a season with 495 last year, which was her first as YSU's starting libero.

Recapping Last Week

  • YSU went 1-2 in three matches last weekend at the Toledo Rocket Invitational. The Penguins lost in five sets to Bradley and in three to Portland before sweeping Toledo for their first win of 2015.
  • Val Jeffery was YSU's representative on the all-tournament team. She averaged 9.18 assists, 1.82 digs and 1.09 kills per set, and the Penguins held an advantage in hitting percentage in two of the three matches.
  • Freshman Sarah Varcolla tied the school record for aces in a match in the season opener against Bradley. Varcolla became the fourth Penguin – and the first since 2001 – to have seven aces in a match. Her 21 points against the Braves is the most by a YSU freshman since Ruth Boscaljon had at least 21 five times in 2006.
  • YSU had 16 aces as a team against Bradley, which was the most by the program since 2001.
  • Sam Brown recorded her 300th career kill and led YSU with 3.27 kills per set during the tournament. She tied her career high with 16 kills in the sweep of Toledo.
  • Junior newcomer Lori Vanbeek led the Penguins with 0.91 blocks per set in Toledo. She added 2.36 kills per set, which ranked second on the team, and her .333 attack percentage was the best of any hitter.
  • Senior libero Nikki Thompson averaged 5.27 digs in the opening weekend, which was the second-most by any Horizon League player.