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Veteran Peters, youngsters part of YSU change

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes McKenah Peters (34) of Youngstown State drives to the basket on Saturday against Eastern Michigan.

YOUNGSTOWN — There have been plenty of changes this season for the Youngstown State University women’s basketball team.

McKenah Peters has been willing to move from her guard position to head inside where she deals with the physical bashing every practice and game. The 5-foot-9 junior toggles between the guard and forward positions.

“It’s different for sure,” Peters said. “Whatever position they put me in, I’m willing to play out on the court, help my teammates in any way possible.

“It’s going to be a very big learning experience. I’ll have to be a lot more stronger, more physical. I want to step up and take that responsibility.”

Senior forward Mary Dunn says the aggressive Peters has the ability to play near the basket. It’s more than a physical adjustment.

“It’s a mind game,” Dunn said. “I’ve always gone against people bigger than me. She’s going to have to do that a lot. If you can get into their head and not let them get into your head, you’ll have such an advantage.

“The biggest things are using your advantages. She needs to use her quickness. It’s not all about height and strength. It’s about how hard you’re playing, which she is really good at.”

Meanwhile, Gabby Lupardus and and Taylor Petit both had a view of the Penguins from the YSU bench last season. This year, the redshirt freshmen are taking more active roles on the Penguins squad.

Lupardus, the West Virginia Player of the Year in 2018, tore her ACL during her junior year and again during the early part of the postseason her senior year.

“It’s helped me having a whole year watching them, learning what they’re doing,” Lupardus said. “Honestly, I came back too fast from the first knee injury, pushed it. It was devastating tearing it again in the last game. I didn’t even know it was going to be the last game my senior year. Really wish things could’ve gone differently, but what happens, happens.”

She’s seeing some time off the bench for the Penguins.

“The knee is a lot better than it was the first time,” Lupardus said. “Hasn’t felt this good in about 3-4 years, honestly. It’s making steps every day. Obviously, I’m not 100 percent. I will get there eventually. That’s what I’m looking forward to.”

It wasn’t a knee for Petit, but shoulder problems her junior year. She collided with another player and her left shoulder hurt. Petit, a Wisconsin native, played the rest of her junior year, but had surgery the summer before her senior year.

She returned her senior year, but never felt 100 percent. Petit had reconstructive surgery on the same left shoulder.

“Last year it never got fully 100 percent, getting past aches and pains,” Petit said. “Had some numbness and tingling, nerve issues throughout last year. This past summer I saw a big leap in my improvement. Now I’m here and I’m 100 percent. I’ve been playing the last few months with the team. I feel good.”

It was more than a year since Petit played, recuperating from her injury. She had to get back fundamentals — dribbling, form shooting and other things.

“It was frustrating, I’m not going to lie,” Petit said. “It was a long process. It’s been going on for some time now. I have some of those aches and pains. It’s frustrating, but I keep my head up and keep going. Whatever happens, happens. I just want to play basketball. That’s what I’m doing.”

Lupardus keeps up with physical therapy and still wears a knee brace.

“I expect the best from myself, very hard on myself,” she said. “I get very frustrated with my knee sometimes because it does slow me down, it feels like.

“Every day, the more I work with it, the faster I get, the more confident I get. The end goal is to be 100 percent confident, not to second guess.”

Those are just some of the changes the YSU team has seen this season.

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