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YSU women relying on senior leadership

YOUNGSTOWN — Mary Dunn comes across the baseline at the Beeghly Center. The fifth-year senior talks about how her Youngstown State University women’s basketball team is doing after her team’s first practice on Wednesday.

She sees fellow senior Chelsea Olson. Dunn thinks back to how the two were so cohesive on the court, either the ball would eventually find its way to the 6-foot-3 Dunn near the basket, or Dunn would pass to a wide-open Olson on the perimeter.

“We talk about that all the time, the duo,” Dunn said. “I’m really excited. Chelsea is really excited. It’s great that I have someone who can put the ball in the basket. I know if I throw it out there, she’s going to score, get an assist, get a rebound.”

Dunn played four games last year before her right meniscus gave way. She sat the rest of the season, eventually having surgery. It took until early June for the Washington, Pa., native to learn she had received a medical redshirt and could return for a fifth season to play for YSU.

“We were definitely a smaller team last year,” said Olson, a Horizon League first-team selection last season. “We have so many people that can play the four or five, three. It’s really nice to have her (Dunn) back.

“I think we play really well together, pick and roll. To have her on the court is really nice.”

YSU (13-17) had its share of injuries besides Dunn. Seniors Emma VanZanten and McKenah Peters saw their time on the bench as well, along with others.

YSU coach John Barnes sees his upperclassmen as coaches on the floor, reinforcing what he and the rest of his staff are trying to convey to the team.

“There’s a lot of times I’ll see the upperclassmen take the younger ones aside and talk to them, helping them out, telling them where they need to be, and being very positive with them,” Barnes said. “It’s great. It helps the freshmen tremendously and helps us. Then we can focus on something else during that time.”

Dunn embraces that role, getting a good understanding through the eyes of her coaches.

“I think it really does mean a lot coming from players, not just coming from coaches,” she said. “I really try to focus on being the more positive aspect because sometimes coach can’t be the positive light. Take them aside and be the positive light. It defintely helps me and helps them.”

One instance was relaying Barnes’ thoughts on Wednesday’s practice.

“The good news, the effort is there, the enthusiasm,” he said. “They’re working hard. I thought ending last week we were putting things together, having really good practices in a back-to-back-to-back situation.

“We had fall break, so we were able to send them home. A little bit rusty today, but we brushed up on some of our fundamental stuff. I think each day the rest of the week it’ll get better.”

The Penguins’ roster has four seniors and the rest are sophomores and freshmen. It takes time for the younger players to learn the intracacies of the YSU offense and defense.

“I think just slowing down,” Olson said. “Ninety percent of our team has played one year or less at the college level. We’re very young in that aspect. Working on it every, single day.”

If the team’s chemistry is equal to the play on the floor, Dunn likes YSU’s chances this season.

“Off the court, we have a really good chemistry this year,” she said. “Everyone is really good friends. I think if we can put that together on the court, we’ll be unstoppable.”

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