YSU women staying afloat despite injuries

YOUNGSTOWN — John Barnes has to find some humor in these situations.

If you had the litany of starters out with injuries the last two seasons, you would have to as well.

Alison Smolinski broke her right foot during a Dec. 20 home game against Penn State-Beaver. Since then, she’s been in a walking boot.

On Monday, she said she’s getting the boot off Tuesday and hopefully start her journey back to the Youngstown State University women’s basketball lineup this season — sooner rather than later.

That’s what Barnes, the YSU women’s coach, is hoping.

“Boot off (Tuesday), starting (tonight),” he joked.

Seriously, Smolinski’s progress is going to be monitored through the YSU training staff and they will keep Barnes updated.

YSU (8-13, 4-6 Horizon League) has progressed the last five games, going 2-3 heading into tonight’s game at Oakland (11-9, 4-5), starting at 7 p.m.

The Penguins came close to knocking off nationally-ranked Green Bay, took a wrong bounce and lost at Milwaukee — two of the best teams in the league.

YSU then won at Cleveland State and at home against a complex defensive team in Northern Kentucky. YSU rallied against a tough Wright State team on Saturday only to fall short.

The Penguins want to cut down on the Golden Grizzlies’ offensive rebounds

Barnes want this team to play tougher, smarter and eliminate mistakes (i.e. turnovers). YSU averages 15 miscues per game. Boxing out for rebounds wouldn’t hurt, either.

“Get a body on a player,” Barnes said.

That said, the chemistry on the court has been pretty good for YSU the past couple of games.

Senior point guard Indiya Benjamin has been a solid force, while players like sophomore post Natalie Myers have been crashing the boards.

Freshman Chelsea Olson was named Horizon League Freshman of the Week for the second straight week. She’s the team’s second-leading scorer in league play, is a good rebounder and 3-point shooter.

Olson is following the path sophomore post Mary Dunn took last year as she was named Horizon League Freshman of the Year, filling in for Sarah Cash, who was out last season with an injury.

“Hopefully (Olson) can keep that up the rest of the season,” said redshirt junior guard Nikki Arbanas, who was out last season with a torn ACL.