Is this the 2016-17 YSU season once again?

COACH John Barnes has seen this before. This is a repeat performance this Youngstown State University women’s basketball team didn’t want to make, especially after trying to find their footing following last Saturday’s come-from-behind win against Eastern Michigan.

YSU saw starters Kelsea Newman and Nikki Arbanas succumb to season-ended ACL tears in separate incidents during the 2016-17 season. Newman’s injury happened in the season opener, while Arbanas went down in the first practice of the season.

It was after a 2016 run where these Penguins advanced to the semifinals of the Women’s Basketball Invitational.

Here we go to 2019-20 season where YSU is coming off its third WNIT bid this decade and a 22-10 season. These Penguins are establishing themselves as one of the top four teams in the Horizon League. More than half the roster is full of newcomers, either ones who sat out due to injuries or NCAA transfers or incoming freshmen. The others are seasoned veterans. They are looked upon to shoulder most of the responsibility.

Depth around the basket was something these Penguins could boast in most contests. They were competitive with fierce competition from Robert Morris and Kent State, two teams vying for conference titles in their respective leagues.

Wednesday, a harsh reality set in as YSU’s post play has been decimated.

Senior Mary Dunn (6-foot-3), a first-team, all-Horizon League player, along with junior Emma VanZanten (6-4) are out of today’s home game against Wagner (starting at 5 p.m.), according to YSU’s Assistant Director of Athletics Communications John Vogel.

Dunn is out with a leg injury, while VanZanten has foot issues. Both could be serious in nature. That will be determined further next week.

Sophomore Amara Chikwe (6-1) has been in concussion protocol after the Nov. 5 opener against Canisius. Her return is uncertain.

Freshman Lexi Wagner tore her ACL in pre-season practice and is out for the season, likely to redshirt this year.

That leave 6-2 freshman Jen Wendler as the only post player on the roster and obvious focal point for most teams.

Junior McKenah Peters (5-9) has been playing the power forward spot in a guard-oriented lineup that will be more prevalent these next couple of games — maybe further.

Seems like 2016-17? It should as Lordstown native Sarah Cash appeared sparingly in a couple of games that season, fighting off knee issues of her own which plagued her throughout her high school and collegiate career.

These Penguins went 9-21 in 2016-17 as YSU became a guard-oriented team that season as sophomore Alison Smolinski was the team’s leading scorer as she emerged into a go-to player for the Penguins. Smolinski eventually became the school’s all-time leading 3-point scorer.

Consistency. These Penguins will need it going forward.

Junior Chelsea Olson, who is a double-double performer, is more of a focal point for this YSU team. All hands on deck for these Penguins as some other players need to emerge in this scheme to make up for the standard inside-out game YSU prefers running.

Look for a more outside shooting, guard-oriented pressure from this team.

The 2016-17 was a year Barnes had to answer injury questions ad nauseam. More of the same might be coming this season, but it’ll be a campaign where emerging stars could solidify YSU’s future.

It’s all how these Penguins handle this season’s adversity.


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