Penguins Head to Virginia for Jefferson Cup

Reis Zandier (Photo by Regina Thompson)
Reis Zandier (Photo by Regina Thompson)

The Youngstown State volleyball team will look to post a winning record at its third straight tournament as it travels to the University of Virginia's Jefferson Cup tournament on Friday and Saturday. The Penguins will the host Cavaliers on Friday at 11 a.m. before playing George Mason and UNC Wilmington at 11 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., respectively, on Saturday.

Recapping Last Week

YSU split four matches last week, and the Penguins' record sits at 5-2 two weeks into the season. Youngstown State began last week with a 3-1 loss at Kent State on Tuesday in a match where junior Aleah Hughes posted YSU's first 20-kill, 20-dig match since 2007. The Penguins then outlasted UNLV for a five-set win to start the Duquesne Invitational on Friday, and they turned around just an hour later and fell to the defending MAC East champion Bowling Green Falcons 3-0. YSU finished the weekend with a 3-0 win over the host Dukes on Saturday.

Quick Notes from Last Week

  • Hughes turned in just the 16th 20-20 match in program history when she had 20 kills and 21 digs at Kent State last Tuesday. Hughes is the first Penguin to go 20-20 since Jessica Fraley in October 2007, and the junior from Berlin Center, Ohio, is just the ninth YSU player to have a 20-20 match.
  • Margaux Thompson and Alexia Byrnes were named to the all-tournament team at the Duquesne Invitational. Thompson averaged 3.18 kills and 4.09 digs over the weekend, and Byrnes averaged 9.00 assists and 3.18 digs per set. Thompson was the MVP of the Bucknell Invitational the first weekend of the season, and Byrnes was an all-tournament team selection there as well.
  • YSU posted a season-best .244 attack percentage and tied its season high with 13 blocks in the five-set win over UNLV. It was the Penguins' first win in program history over a team from the Mountain West Conference in five tries.
  • The Penguins had 49 kills in the sweep of Duquesne on Saturday as it won all three sets by two points. YSU had 20 kills in the opening set, 13 in the second and 16 in the third.
  • YSU had 91 digs in the four-set loss at Kent State on Tuesday, which followed a 90-dig performance in four sets at Bucknell. Prior to this season, the Penguins hadn't had at least 90 digs in a match since a five-setter versus Valparaiso in 2015. Their last four-set match with at least 90 digs came on Oct. 12, 2007, when they had 100 against Wright State. Sets still went to 30 in 2007, and three of those sets went beyond 30.

Horizon League Rankings

  • The Penguins lead the Horizon League with 12.81 assists per set and 13.42 kills per set. YSU is also second in the conference with 20.96 digs per set.
  • Individually, sophomore Margaux Thompson ranks third in kills per set (3.69) and in points per set (3.90), and she is seventh in digs per set (4.23).
  • Sophomore Reis Zandier ranks third in the Horizon League with 4.67 digs per set.
  • Redshirt freshman setter Alexia Byrnes ranks fourth in the conference with 8.38 assists per set.
  • Aleah Hughes sits ninth in the league with 4.19 digs per set.

National Rankings

  • Youngstown State ranks second in the country in both total digs (545) and digs per set (20.96). Fellow Horizon League member Northern Kentucky leads the nation in digs per set.
  • YSU is fourth in the country in attacks per set (41.89) and seventh in total attacks (1,089)

Scouting Opponents

  • Virginia: Virginia is 2-4 this season and will enter Friday's match following back-to-back victories. The Cavaliers picked up their first win of the season this past Friday with a 3-2 victory over Northern Kentucky at the NIU Invitational, and they swept Northern Illinois on Saturday. Sarah Billard averages a team-high 3.81 kills per set, and Chino Anukwuem leads the squad with 1.04 blocks per set. UVA returns six starters and 10 letterwinners from last year's squad that went 7-24. The Cavaliers were picked to finish 14th in the ACC's preseason poll.
  • George Mason: George Mason enters this week with a 2-3 record, and the Patriots will play Navy and UNC Wilmington before their match with YSU. George Mason went 2-1 last weekend at the Hoya Invitational, beating Penn in four sets and sweeping Norfolk State. The Patriots return eight letterwinners from last year's squad that went 6-21, including their leaders in kills per set, assists per set and digs per set. Four Patriots average at least two kills per set, and Kelly Fagan averages 1.5 blocks per set. George Mason was picked to finish 10th in the Atlantic 10 Conference preseason poll.
  • UNC Wilmington: UNC Wilmington is 3-3 this season and is coming off a 3-0 showing at the Hoya Invitational over the weekend. The Seahawks swept Norfolk State and Penn, then beat Georgetown in five sets. UNCW has three matches before playing YSU on Saturday. The Seahawks average 2.20 blocks per set as a team, and Kendall Bender (1.29) and Rebecca Nuanez (1.17) both average more than 1.1 per set individually. Bender is the reigning Defensive Player of the Week in the CAA. UNCW was picked to finish tied-for-sixth in the preseason CAA poll.

Next Week

Youngstown State will play four matches next week within 60 miles of campus. The Penguins will play at Robert Morris on Tuesday, and they'll play Iona, Bucknell and Akron at the Zips Invitational over the weekend.