Penguins Host NKU in Dig Pink Match, Travel to UIC This Week

YSU Volleyball (Photo by Regina Thompson)
YSU Volleyball (Photo by Regina Thompson)

The Youngstown State volleyball team concludes its three-match homestand on Wednesday as it hosts Northern Kentucky, and it will face a quick turnaround on Friday in a contest at UIC. Wednesday's match against the Norse will begin at 6 p.m. in Beeghly Center, and Friday's match versus the Flames in Chicago will start at 7 p.m. Eastern. Both matches will be streamed live on ESPN3, and live stats will be available for both through links on

Promotions & Event Information

  • The Penguins will be hosting a Dig Pink event to raise funds and awareness for breast cancer and the Side-Out Foundation at their match against the Norse. The first 200 fans in attendance will receive a pink YSU volleyball t-shirt, and anyone wishing to support YSU's fundraising goal can do so at
  • Wednesday will also be the YSU Faculty Appreciation Match as well as the YSU Student-Athlete Match.
  • Parking information
  • Visitors Guide

Scouting Report

  • Youngstown State is 7-10 overall and 1-3 in Horizon League play as it enters this week. The Penguins played their first 15 matches of the season on the road, and they split home matches against Wright State (3-1 win) and IUPUI (3-0 loss) last weekend.
  • The Penguins have already matched their conference win total from last season, and they are one win shy of tying their overall win total. YSU has replaced a four-year starter and six-rotation player, its starting libero from the past two seasons and its starting setter from last year.
  • YSU won its first three matches of the campaign and was 5-2 after impressive wins over UNLV and Duquesne at the Duquesne Invitational on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1.
  • Youngstown State ranks third in the country with 18.86 digs per set, which is 4.22 more than it averaged in 2017 and the most in school history since 1995. The Penguins are also third nationally in team attacks per set. Four of the top six teams in the country in digs per set are in the Horizon League.
  • Aleah Hughes and Margaux Thompson are the only two players in the Horizon League to rank among the top 10 in the conference in both kills and digs per set. Hughes is third with 3.10 kills per set and seventh with 4.11 digs per set, and Thompson sits fifth in kills per set (3.03) and ninth in digs per set (3.98).
  • Thompson and Hughes have combined for 1,199 of YSU's 2,539 attacks, which equates to 47.2 percent. The duo also accounts for 49.2 percent of the team's kills and 42.3 percent of its digs.
  • Since YSU began running a 5-1 offense with Giovanna Kuntze as its setter on Sept. 14, Kuntze is averaging 9.64 assists per set over six matches. That total for the year would rank third in the Horizon League. Kuntze's counterpart at the position, Alexia Byrnes, has been out since Sept. 11.
  • Aline Scott is in her first season as YSU's head coach. She is the 10th head coach in program history, and she is a head coach at the Division I level for the first time in her career. She spent eight previous seasons coaching in Ohio, the previous three as the head coach at Division III Hiram and five as an assistant at Akron.

Recapping Last Week

  • Youngstown State split its two matches last week, beating Wright State in four sets on Friday before losing to IUPUI in three sets on Saturday. YSU topped the Raiders 25-22, 16-25, 25-21, 25-22 and fell 25-18, 25-23, 25-23 to the Jaguars. Those were the first two home matches of the season for the Penguins.
  • Aleah Hughes had a monster match on Friday with 17 kills and 23 digs in the four-set win over Wright State. She had seven more kills than any other player, and she led the Penguins in digs. She had eight of those kills in the third set alone to help YSU snap a six-match losing skid.
  • Marketa Plesingrova came off the bench to give the Penguins a big lift in the win over the Raiders. The sophomore had nine kills in 17 attempts to hit .471 in just two sets. She had seven of those kills in the fourth set as YSU finished the match with a 25-22 win. The nine kills tied a season high.
  • Sarah Varcolla had eight blocks, and the Penguins posted 10 as a team. That was YSU's most in a match since having 13 in the win over UNLV on Aug. 13.
  • Margaux Thompson had an impressive weekend defensively averaging an extraordinary 7.6 digs per set. She had 16 digs in three sets against Wright State, and she followed that up with 21 digs in two sets versus IUPUI.
  • As a team, YSU posted 167 digs in seven sets last week for an average of 23.9 per set. That helped the Penguins jump from seventh to third in the national digs-per-set rankings.

Horizon League / National Rankings

  • Although YSU ranks third in the country with 18.86 digs per set, it also sits third in the Horizon League rankings. Northern Kentucky leads the country with 20.27 digs per set, and IUPUI is second at 19.11. Fellow conference member Cleveland State is sixth nationally.
  • The Penguins also rank third nationally with 40.30 team attacks per set, behind NKU and IUPUI.
  • As a team, YSU ranks fourth in the Horizon League in both assists (11.71) and kills (12.59) per set.
  • Individually, Aleah Hughes and Margaux Thompson are the only two players in the Horizon League to rank in the top 10 in both kills and digs per set. Hughes ranks third in kills (3.10) and seventh in digs (4.11) per set, and Thompson is fifth in kills (3.03) and ninth in digs (3.98).
  • Setter Alexia Byrnes, who has missed the last six matches, ranks fifth in the league with 7.53 assists per set. Giovanna Kuntze sits 10th with 0.27 aces per set.
  • Through two weeks of conference play, Hughes ranks fourth in league matches in kills per set, and she is seventh in digs per set. Sarah Varcolla is fourth with 1.38 blocks per set, and Kuntze ranks fourth in assists (9.69) and fifth in aces (0.38) per set. Thompson is fourth in digs per set (5.73).

Scouting Opponents

  • NKU: Northern Kentucky is 3-1 in Horizon League play through the first two weeks, and its 11 overall victories lead the conference. The Norse's only loss in the conference is to undefeated Cleveland State, and that's NKU's only setback since Sept. 1. Northern Kentucky leads the Horizon League in hitting percentage (.195), kills per set (13.71), assists per set (12.95) and digs per set (20.27), and it is third in aces per set (1.53). Haley Libs ranks second in the league with 4.15 kills per set, and she's just out of the top 10 with 3.83 digs per set. Ashton Terrill paces the conference with 5.88 digs per set.
  • UIC: UIC enters the week with a 9-8 overall mark and an even 2-2 record in conference play. The Flames have beaten IUPUI (3-1) and Milwaukee (3-0) and lost to Wright State (3-1) and Green Bay (3-2) in the league. UIC leads the league with 1.61 aces per set, and it ranks second in assists (12.02) and blocks (2.32) per set. Individually, Tatyana Ndekwe is second in the conference with 1.13 blocks per set and ninth with a .248 attack percentage. Manuela Conte and Marija Borcic rank second and third, respectively, in aces per set, and Paola Santiago is one of three Flames averaging at least 2.2 kills per set.

Next Week

  • Youngstown State will make its annual Wisconsin road swing next week. The Penguins will play at Milwaukee on Oct. 12 at 7 p.m. Eastern, and they'll play at Green Bay on Saturday at 5 p.m. Eastern. Both matches will be streamed live on ESPN+.