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YSU’s Barnes speaks at Curbstone Coaches

BEAVER TOWNSHIP – As far as YSU women’s basketball coach John Barnes is concerned, the upcoming season cannot start soon enough.

Last year was a challenging campaign, complete with COVID-19 protocols which prevented the season from starting until New Year’s Day and featured only Horizon League opponents.

It was a season that can remain a fading memory.

While the Penguins lost several players to the transfer portal, the portal was also generous to Barnes with five experienced transfers now set to make their debut on Beeghly Center’s Dom Rosselli Court.

“Practice has gone well thus far,” Barnes told the Curbstone Coaches during Monday’s weekly meeting at Avion Banquet Center. “The women are working hard, they are focused and fun to coach. We lost a lot of firepower from last year’s squad but on the other hand, the transfer portal has also been good to us.”

While most college coaches feel they are behind at this point in practice, Barnes feels like his team is right on schedule.

“We had a good summer,” he added. “We put in our basics, our fundamentals are all in and we continue working on those things every day. We have two scrimmages, not open to the public, that will help us gauge our progress.

“On Friday, we’ll go up against Bowling Green State at Beeghly Center then the following Saturday we’ll head over to Duquesne University. BGSU won the Mid-American Conference last season while Duquesne’s head coach, Dan Burt, does a nice job with his program so we are looking forward to those upcoming scrimmages.”

The Penguins return floor general Chelsea Olson, a four-year letterwinner who averaged 10.4 points per game a season ago and was one of three players to average double figures. She was tops on the team with 90 assists, 22 steals and 19 blocked shots, finishing second with 23 buckets from beyond the arc.

“Chelsea returns for her fifth season and from day one, she has always been about the team,” Barnes said. “Out of necessity, we moved her from her familiar off guard position to point guard last year and while she gave up a lot of scoring, she has been outstanding with her assists and assist to turnover ratio in the conference. She’s just a special player.”

Joining Olson from last year’s squad is Mady Aulbach (18 games, 2.3 ppg, 2.1 rpg), Malia Magestro (18 games, 5.1 ppg, 1.4 rpg, 18 triples), Lexi Wagner (16 games, 1.6 ppg), Emma Randall (nine games) and Jen Wendler (13 games).

Transfers include Lindsey Mack from Fairleigh Dickinson, Megan Callahan from Horizon League opponent Robert Morris, Paige Shy from Marshall University, Lindsey Linard from Duquesne University and Lilly Ritz from Wheeling College.

“Lindsey Mack was a starter at FDU who averaged 30-plus minutes a game while Megan is an outstanding three-point shooter who can play the one through four positions,” Barnes noted. “Lindsey Linard is 6-4, runs the floor well for her size, can rebound and is an excellent shot blocker while Lilly was a Division II All-American center last year who led the country in rebounding, was third in the nation in scoring and registered three games with 34 rebounds.

“Paige is an excellent rebounder who is also an outstanding three-point shooter.

Rounding out the roster are freshmen recruits Kayiona Willis, Athena Hocevar and Haley Thierry, all guards, and Tenleigh Phelps, a forward.

Last season, Barnes’ squad posted a 3.874 cumulative grade point average, second-best among all Division I teams in the country.

Currently in his ninth season at the helm, Barnes’ teams have been ranked among the top 10 in the country on the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Academic Top 25 list during five of the past six seasons.

Individually, Aulbach, Magestro, Olson, Randall, Wagner and Wendler each posted a 4.0 GPA during at least one semester last year.

Barnes said the Horizon League will once again be highly competitive.

“IUPUI is the team to beat in my eyes,” he said. “They lost two starters but the transfer portal was good to them and they got better. Wisconsin-Green Bay will be tough, as will Northern Kentucky and Oakland University.

“As for us, this team has arguably the best chemistry since our WNIT team of 2014-15. This team reminds me a lot of that team. Our non-conference schedule includes Eastern Michigan, Akron, Penn State and Pitt with our Point Park game on December 21 the annual area high school and elementary student’s game that begins at 11 a.m.

“It should be an action packed season and we cannot wait for it to get underway.”

Next Monday, Jerrod Calhoun, YSU head men’s basketball coach, will serve as guest speaker.

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