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Callahan set for return to RMU

Guard transferred from Colonials’ hoops program in offseason

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes Youngstown State’s Megan Callahan tries to pull off a shot against Penn State earlier this season. Callahan will return to Robert Morris on Thursday when the Penguins take on the Colonials.

YOUNGSTOWN — It’s going to be an odd feeling, Megan Callahan admits.

Once a regular starter for Robert Morris, Callahan is set for her first return to the UPMC Events Center. Only this time, she’ll be the invader as she and Youngstown State pay the Colonials a visit Thursday night.

Callahan transferred to YSU during the offseason after earning her bachelor’s degree from RMU.

“That’s like a home court for me. I played there for two years in the new facility,” she said. “I’m going to be a visitor in the visiting locker room, which is going to be a weird transition for me. But at the end of the day, I just have to see it as another game, another opportunity, and we’ll see what we can do to get the job done.”

Robert Morris and YSU were among several schools Callahan considered out of high school. Others included West Point and St. Francis (PA).

The Virginia native chose RMU after her junior season based on geographic proximity to her hometown, Bristow, as well as a fit with the coaching staff, roster and playstyle the Colonials featured.

Things went well, especially early on. In her freshman campaign, Callahan started in 32 games and averaged a career-high nine points.

“I feel like I impacted the team a lot. There were a lot of freshmen and not a lot of upperclassmen, so we really got the opportunity to play,” she said.

As a sophomore, though, she only started in eight games before needing a season-ending surgery for compartment syndrome — a painful condition in which pressure within muscles builds to dangerous levels — in both her legs. After that surgery, Callahan’s role changed, as she started coming off the bench as a role player her junior season.

Then, her senior year presented a lot of change. Not only was the world in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Robert Morris was in its inaugural season in the Horizon League. In addition, a Colonial starter left the program midway through the season, opening the door for Callahan to get more minutes.

It was exciting, Callahan said, as leaving the Northeast Conference for the Horizon was a step up in competition, but after that season concluded, she decided it was time to take a new path.

“I think my time there was challenging. I met some great teammates and people that will always be in my life, but after four years, it was time for me to find somewhere new,” said Callahan, who studies criminal justice and hopes to play basketball overseas before beginning a career with an organization such as the FBI.

So, Callahan put her name in the transfer portal. Within a week, she was in touch with former YSU assistant Andy Crane. She also was looking at a school in Texas, a school in Florida, and Mercyhurst, a Division II school in Erie, Pa.

But between the familiarity Callahan already had with the YSU coaching staff — she was recruited to Youngstown State initially, after all — and a phone call with now-teammates Chelsea Olson and Mady Aulbach, Callahan decided to transfer to YSU.

It was a stressful process, she said.

“There are a lot of people calling you, and you don’t want to make a decision too late,” Callahan noted. “You want to find the right school, and already experiencing what I experienced, I didn’t want to choose the wrong place. So that made it a little bit more stressful for me.”

Things have worked out for both Callahan and YSU since her arrival. Callahan, who has another year of eligibility after this one, was voted a team captain during the preseason, has been a regular starter and averages 7.5 points per game. Meanwhile, YSU is off to a 15-2 start and 9-1 mark in Horizon League play.

In terms of her own transition to Youngstown, Callahan said having four years of Division I experience helped, and so did having some of those tougher experiences at RMU. Those, combined with her work ethic, made it easy on her.

So, too, did her teammates, roommates and coaches. Callahan lives with Olson, Jen Wendler, Tenleigh Phelps and Emma Randall, all of which are teammates and “are really open to helping me with whatever I need help with.”

The team as a whole gets along well, too, which has aided in the strong start the Penguins have had.

Now, they’ll look to continue that Thursday as they prepare for a rematch with RMU. The teams met Jan. 8 — a 59-53 YSU victory — in an impromptu contest after the Penguins’ games at Wright State and Northern Kentucky were canceled due to COVID-19 protocol within those two programs. They’ll also meet again Saturday back at the Beeghly Center.

Having an initial matchup out of the way helps with some of the nerves, Callahan said.

She added, “It was nice that we got to play them one time at home first. I think that took a little bit of my nerves out.”

Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

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