Volleyball Heads to North Carolina for Three Matches

Aleah Hughes (Photo by Matt Milligan)
Aleah Hughes (Photo by Matt Milligan)

The Youngstown State volleyball team will play three road matches in North Carolina this weekend as it competes against Elon, UNC Greensboro and High Point in the Tussle in the Triad tournament. The Penguins will play Elon on Friday at 7 p.m., and on Saturday they'll play UNC Greensboro at 11 a.m. and High Point at 7 p.m. Live video will be available for both of Saturday's matches.

A Quick Season Review: The Penguins head into the weekend with a 1-3 mark and coming off of back-to-back competitive five-set losses. YSU swept Ball State in the season opener at the Fort Wayne Invitational, and, following a loss to Fort Wayne, dropped five-setters to Murray State and Duquesne. The match against Duquesne on Tuesday was YSU's home opener and the Penguins' only match at Beeghly Center until Horizon League play begins on Sept. 24.

Recapping Duquesne: Youngstown State fell behind 7-1 in the first set and 6-1 in the second in building a 2-0 deficit in the match. The Penguins fought through 18 ties and 10 lead changes in the third set to outlast the Dukes 26-24, and YSU rallied from a 20-14 deficit in the fourth to force a fifth set. Duquesne built a 13-9 lead in the fifth and held on to take the set 16-14.

Junior outside hitter Sam Brown led the Penguins with 17 kills and a career-high 23 digs, and she was joined in double digits in kills by Lori Vanbeek (13) and Valor Haggerty (11). Libero Dana Borsz registered a career-best 27 digs, and setter Val Jeffery approached a triple double with eight kills and nine digs to go along with her 51 assists. She did not have an error in 16 attacks.

Brown Off to Solid Start: Junior outside hitter Sam Brown is averaging 3.50 kills per set over the first four matches of the season. That's one kill more per set than her average last season, which was her first as YSU's primary left-side hitter. Brown is carrying a larger workload with 10.69 attempts per set, up from 8.12 last season, but she's also been more efficient with a .216 hitting percentage that is .078 better than in 2015. Brown's 3.13 digs per set is also a big upgrade from her 1.91 per set last season.

Jeffery Makes Return to High Point: Senior setter Val Jeffery will have a homecoming on Saturday when the Penguins play at High Point. Jeffery played for the Panthers as a freshman in 2013 before transferring back to her home state in 2014 to enroll in the nursing program. Jeffery played in 16 matches for High Point when it went 16-15. In her first year at Youngstown State, she was named the Horizon League Setter of the Year and led the Penguins to a 17-14 mark. In her two plus seasons at YSU, Jeffery has posted 2,372 assists.

Horizon League Ranks: Sophomore middle blocker Sarah Varcolla ranks among the top five in the Horizon League in two statistical categories, slotting fourth with 1.13 blocks per set and fifth with 0.50 aces per set. Redshirt freshman Aleah Hughes is tied with her in aces, and Sam Brown and Val Jeffery rank seventh in kills and assists per set, respectively. Dana Borsz has the top individual ranking among Penguins with 4.13 digs per set, the third-most in the conference.

Scouting Elon: Elon is 2-1 this season with a four-set loss to Charlotte and wins over Campbell and North Carolina A&T. The Phoenix posted a 7-23 record last season and were picked to finish ninth in the Colonial Athletic Association in 2016. YSU and Elon have split the only two meetings in their programs' histories. The Penguins swept Elon in 2000, and Elon swept the Penguins in 2008.

Scouting UNC Greensboro: UNC Greensboro is 1-2 after the first week of the season with two losses against Power Five conference opponents. The Spartans lost in three sets at Duke to begin 2016, and they lost a four-setter to LSU. UNC Greensboro's first win came in five sets over Eastern Kentucky last Saturday. The Spartans won 22 matches in 2015 and were picked to finish fourth in the Southern Conference this season. Youngstown State is 2-0 all-time against the Spartans with four-set wins in 2007 and 2012.

Scouting High Point: High Point possesses a 2-1 record heading into this weekend with a sweep of Wofford to start the season, a four-set loss at Clemson and a five-set triumph over William & Mary. The Panthers are the favorites to win the Big South Conference, and junior Haley Barnes in the conference's preseason player of the year. Youngstown State and High Point will be playing for the first time.