YOUNGSTOWN - Friday's 72-45 Horizon League semifinal loss to Loyola was the most devastating loss the Youngstown State women's basketball team has suffered this season.
This was a YSU team that rose from the depths of an 0-30 season in 2009-10 and had 10 wins last season.
Monday, as the WNIT bracket showed YSU (22-9) hosting Indiana State (18-12) in Thursday's first-round game, the chance at redemption was here for the Penguins.
Tribune Chronicle / John Vargo
The Youngstown State women's basketball team celebrates at Cassese MVR in Youngstown after finding out they are hosting Indiana State in the first round of the WNIT Tournament on Thursday.
"We lost a little bit of the chip we had on our shoulder about being selected eighth (in the Horizon League preseason poll)," YSU third-year coach Bob Boldon said. "We didn't play like we've played all year.
"I'm happy for Brandi Brown, that didn't have to be her last game. She's going to play and going to play in front of the fans in Youngstown, Ohio. That's tremendous."
The team was gathered at Cassese MVR for the late-night announcement on womenswnit.com. The bracket was put up on TV, showing the Penguins facing Indiana State. More importantly, it was a home game - a home game that costs YSU $6,500 to host.
"I didn't think about it most of the day," YSU guard Liz Hornberger said. "Then, right before it pops up, I'm getting all nervous. Usually I don't get nervous like that. The first thing I saw is it was at home.
"I'll probably be up all night looking up Indiana State because it'll be driving me nuts."
Brown is happy to be playing again.
"I think we're all excited and grateful for another chance to play another game," she said. "We know we didn't play our best and leave our best on the floor in our last game in Loyola. We're hoping to truly redeem ourselves. It's sort of a clean slate now."
Monday was about celebrating YSU's first-round WNIT game - a game the Penguins knew they were going to play after Green Bay won the league title Sunday, giving YSU the automatic WNIT bid.
"You knew it was coming, but it's still exciting to see your name up on the board," Boldon said. "Then, to see Youngstown, Ohio, as the destination is really exciting.
"I think this town deserves it. I think these players deserve it. It'll be a really special night."
YSU is grateful for the WNIT bid and the steps the Penguins have made as a program.
"It's a step in the right direction," Boldon said. "I think the NCAA bid is our ultimate goal. To play in the postseason for a team that look like it couldn't play even in a regular-season tournament is a special accomplishment and proud of what this team has been able to overcome to get there."
BROWN, YSU TOPS AMONG MID MAJORS: Brown, the Horizon League Player of the Year, was named to the College Sports Madness All-High Major Second Team. Also, the Penguins appeared at No. 20 in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 Poll.