Volleyball Battles Two First-Place Teams This Weekend

Sarah Varcolla (Photo by Regina Thompson)
Sarah Varcolla (Photo by Regina Thompson)

The Youngstown State volleyball team will play a match on the road and another at Beeghly Center this weekend against two teams that are deadlocked in a three-way tie atop the Horizon League standings. The Penguins will play at Cleveland State on Saturday at 4 p.m., and they'll host Oakland on Sunday at 4 p.m. Both matches this weekend will be streamed on ESPN3 / WatchESPN, and live stats links will be available through YSUsports.com.

Recapping Last Week: The Penguins were swept in a pair of conference road matches last weekend at IUPUI and Northern Kentucky. YSU struggled offensively against the Jaguars and finished with a .056 attack percentage in losing 25-18, 25-15, 25-12. The Penguins improved to a .232 attack percentage and held late leads in all three sets against the Norse but fell 25-23, 25-22, 25-22. Sam Brown led the Penguins with 18 kills and four aces in the two matches, and Sarah Varcolla posted eight blocks.

Blanco Named Horizon League Defensive Player of the Week: For the second time in three weeks, Youngstown State senior libero Lauren Blanco is the Horizon League Defensive Player of the Week. Blanco averaged 6.3 digs per set last week with 39 digs in six sets. She had 12 digs in three sets at IUPUI on Friday, and she followed that up by posting 27 digs in three sets against Northern Kentucky on Saturday. The 27 digs were the most ever by a YSU player in a three-set rally-scoring match. She notched 15 of those digs in the third set.

Brown Reaches 1,000 Kills: Senior Sam Brown became the 13th player in YSU volleyball history to record 1,000 career kills in the Penguins' match last Saturday at Northern Kentucky. Brown's milestone kill came on a tip from setter Libbie Darling that made the score 10-9 in the first set. She went on to match her season high with 13 kills while hitting .444 in the match. Brown currently has 1,010 kills in her career, which ranks 11th in YSU history. She needs 11 more to crack the top 10.

Blanco Closing in on 1,000 Digs: Senior libero Lauren Blanco has 959 digs in her career and needs 41 in YSU's final four matches of the season to become the 16th player in program history to reach 1,000. Notably, 765 of those digs have come in the last two seasons. She had 37 digs as a freshman, 157 as a sophomore and 353 as a junior. She has 412 in 2017. Blanco continues to lead the Horizon League with 5.26 digs per set during conference play, and she is averaging 4.58 digs per set overall.

Scouting Cleveland State: Cleveland State enters the weekend with a league-best overall record of 16-7, and the Vikings are one of three teams that is 9-3 in the conference. Cleveland State has won its last six matches after a loss at Oakland on Oct. 7 dropped its conference record to 3-3. The Vikings lead the league in hitting percentage, kills per set and assists per set, and Alexis Middlebrooks paces the impressive offense with 3.24 kills per set and a .352 attack percentage. CSU will host Oakland on Friday evening before welcoming the Penguins to Woodling Gymnasium on Saturday.

Scouting Oakland: Oakland enters this weekend with a 14-10 overall record and tied at 9-3 in the conference with Cleveland State and IUPUI. The Golden Grizzlies lost their first two conference matches to Green Bay and Milwaukee, but they have gone 8-1 since. Oakland ranks 14th in the country with 2.90 blocks per set, and Krysteena Davis is seventh individually in the nation with 1.56 per set. In addition to Davis leading the league in blocks, Darien Bandel tops the charts with 4.27 kills per set, and Sammy Condon paces the circuit with 0.42 aces per set.

Next Week: Youngstown State will play its final two matches of the season next week. The Penguins will play at Wright State on Wednesday at 6 p.m., and they'll host Milwaukee next Saturday at 4 p.m.