It was another year of dominating performances for the Youngstown State men’s and women’s track teams as they swept both the Horizon League Indoor and Outdoor Championships in 2018-19.
It was hardly new territory for the Penguins; they’ve won 14 of the last 16 championships held over the last four years, and the two losses came by a combined seven points. But Youngstown State flexed its muscles in 2018-19 to win sizably in perhaps their strongest collective teams in this recent stretch of championships.
At the Horizon League Indoor Track & Field Championships held at the Watson and Tressel Training Site, the men’s team won the title by 110 points, and the women won by 49.5. On the men’s side, four student-athletes combined to win six individual titles, and Chad Zallow was named the Outstanding Performer in Running Events. The men’s team scored 238 points, which was the most ever by a Penguins squad and the second most in the history of the league meet. On the women’s side, six student-athletes combined to win seven individual titles, and Nicolette Kreatsoulas, Suerethia Henderson and Olivia Jones each earned special awards. The women’s total of 193 points was the second most in school history.
After the conference meet, Zallow and Jaliyah Elliot went on to give the program national recognition by earning second-team All-American honors at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships.
Youngstown State’s men’s basketball team took fans on a thrilling six-game winning streak from Jan. 31 through Feb. 16. Four of the wins were by two points or fewer, and YSU hit a go-ahead basket in the final 14 seconds in three of them. It was YSU’s longest winning streak since joining the Horizon League in 2001-02 and the longest for the program since 1997-98.
The stretch began with a 75-74 win Oakland on Jan. 31 when YSU outscored the Golden Grizzlies 46-38 in the second half, and Darius Quisenberry hit two free throws with four seconds remaining to seal the game. Devin Morgan then hit a 3-pointer with 13.4 seconds remaining at Detroit Mercy as YSU outscored the Titans 11-3 over the final 3:30 to win 72-70.
Following those two close road wins, the Penguins went 4-0 in a stretch of 10 days at Beeghly Center to extend their winning streak to six. Garrett Covington started the excitement with a 3 at the buzzer as YSU beat Milwaukee 72-71 to start the homestand in a moment that made SportsCenter’s Top. The Penguins then shot a season-best 56.1 percent from the field in an impressive 96-77 win over Green Bay to sweep the weekend. Exactly a week after Covington’s game-winner, Donel Cathcart III drilled a go-ahead 3 with 5.8 seconds remaining as the Penguins beat IUPUI 75-73. The sixth and final win came as Quisenberry scored 37 points – the most by a YSU freshman in 40 years – in an 81-73 triumph over UIC.
Quisenberry was named the Horizon League Freshman of the Week three consecutive weeks during the winning streak, and the point guard averaged 20.5 points and 5.2 assists during the stretch.
From March 20 through April 3, the Youngstown State softball team set a school record with 11 consecutive wins, breaking the old mark of 10 set in 2004.
The streak began right after the Penguins were no-hit in a 10-0 home loss to Kent State in game one of a doubleheader. Freshman Grace Cea hit a big three-run homer in the third inning of game two to lift the Penguins to a 4-3 win over the Golden Flashes, and YSU went on to win 11 straight contests in a 14-day stretch. After beating Kent State, YSU went unbeaten in a three-game series against Oakland, swept doubleheaders on consecutive days against Akron and St. Bonaventure, won one game at IUPUI and swept a doubleheader at Niagara.
During that 11-game span, YSU batted .302 as a team, and Elizabeth Birkbeck batted .444 with three home runs and 15 RBIs. Cea cranked four homers, drove in 14 runs scored 14 times and batted .378. Freshman Addy Jarvis was dominant in the circle going 6-0 with an earned-run average of 2.44. In 43 innings pitched in those 11 games, Jarvis struck out 66 batters, including setting the then-single-game strikeout record with 15 against Niagara on April 3. Jarvis also limited her opponents to a mere .186 batting average.
The Youngstown State women’s basketball team was dominant on Rosselli Court in 2018-19. The Penguins went 16-1 on their home floor and ended the season by winning 13 consecutive home games. For perspective, the program had won 13 home games total just five times previously – in 1987-88, 1990-91, 1991-92, 2012-13 and 2015-16.
The home slate started with a 69-59 win over Robert Morris, a game in which Melinda Trimmer hit a shot at the buzzer to send it into overtime. Youngstown State scored 13 of the first 14 points of overtime, and it went on to lead by at least a dozen points in every regular-season home game. YSU’s average margin of victory during the year was 20.2 points as the Penguins outscored opponents 74.6 to 54.2 on average. Youngstown State shot an impressive 45.1 percent from the field at home and also held a plus-11.4 rebounding margin.
The Penguins beat every Horizon League team on Rosselli Court during the year, including a 70-59 win over Green Bay on Feb. 15 that ultimately stopped the Phoenix’s run of 21 consecutive regular-season titles. YSU beat Milwaukee 67-47 on Senior Day two days later to finish up a 9-0 regular-season record against league teams, and it topped the Panthers 64-58 on March 6 in the opening round of the Horizon League Women’s Basketball Championship to end the home slate with a 16-1 record.
The Youngstown community certainly helped with the home-court advantage the Penguins enjoyed. YSU ranked second in the Horizon League with an average attendance of 1,512. That was the highest average attendance of every Division I school within 130 miles of campus as YSU outdrew Kent State, Akron, Cleveland State, Pitt, Robert Morris, Duquesne and Saint Francis U.
Dressing a maximum of just nine players and moving on after the graduation of key players from last year's squad, 2018-19 could have been a rebuilding year for the YSU women’s basketball team. But three seniors led the Penguins to their best season in Head Coach John Barnes’ tenure and a trip back to the postseason.
YSU went 22-10 during the campaign to earn an at-large berth into the WNIT, which was its fifth postseason appearance in the last seven years. Of the 22 victories, 16 of them came at Beeghly Center as the team set a school record for most home wins. The Penguins were unbeaten in conference play on their home floor and went on to set another program record for Horizon League victories. YSU’s 16th home win sent it to the semifinals of the conference tournament, and the Penguins came up two points short of heading to the title game. YSU’s season ended with a loss at Cincinnati in the first round of the WNIT.
Balanced fueled the Penguins’ success in 2018-19. Four players – Alison Smolinski, Sarah Cash, Mary Dunn and Chelsea Olson - averaged double figures for the first time in 16 years, and each of them was named Horizon League Player of the Week during the season. YSU led the Horizon League in free-throw percentage, field-goal percentage, 3s per game, assists per game and assist-to-turnover ratio, and it had the league’s best offense during conference play. The Penguins also had their best scoring defense since joining the Division I ranks in 1981-82, and they posted their second-best field-goal percentage defense in program history.
All three seniors set school records during the season as they cemented a legacy. Smolinski broke school records for 3s in a game (9), season (109) and career (262), and she added the Horizon League single-season 3-pointers record as well. Cash finished her career holding YSU career marks for games played (135) and field-goal percentage (.570), and Melinda Trimmer set a new school record for best assist-to-turnover ratio in a season with a mark of 2.23. Additionally, junior Mary Dunn was named First-Team All-Horizon League and conference’s Sixth Player of the Year, and sophomore Chelsea Olson was one of five players in the country to average at least 10 points, seven rebounds and 4.5 assists.
It was another great year for newcomers on campus as six Youngstown State student-athletes were named Horizon League Freshman of the Year. Those six individuals highlighted a sensational 2018-19 for a large group of Penguins who should have plenty more thrills wearing the Red & White.
Zach Gehm – Men’s Track & Field
Just four days ago on June 22, freshman thrower Zach Gehm delivered one of the best moments of the year in Penguins Athletics when he won the discus at the USATF U20 Outdoor Championships. The win at the national meet allows Gehm to advance to the Pan American U20 Championships in San Jose, Costa Rica, next month.
Gehm previously was named the Field Freshman of the Year at the Horizon League Outdoor Track & Field Championships after placing second in the shot put and discus at the conference meet. Earlier this season, he broke the school record in the discus had stood since 2001 when he threw 54.17m at the Ashland Alumni Open on April 20. He topped his own mark at the NCAA East Preliminaries with a 54.67m, and he went on to shatter that by almost six meters at the USATF U20 Outdoor Championships when he threw 60.31m.
Addy Jarvis - Softball
Freshman Addy Jarvis turned in a record-breaking rookie campaign for the softball team and was named the Horizon League Freshman of the Year. The freshman sensation set the YSU single-season strikeout record with 218, topping the previous mark of 196 held by Casey Crozier in 2014. Through just one season, Jarvis' 218 strikeouts also rank ninth on the YSU career chart.
Jarvis also set the YSU single-game strikeout record of 15 against Niagara on April 3, and she broke her own mark with 16 against Northern Kentucky in 15.2 innings on April 23.
Jarvis led the Horizon League in strikeouts and shutouts, and she ranked third in wins (12) and opponent batting average (.235) and fourth in earned-run average (2.58). In addition to being named the Horizon League Freshman of the Year, she was also voted second-team all-conference.
Puthita Khuanrudee – Women’s Golf
Puthita Khuanrudee had a sensational debut season for the women’s golf team as she was named Horizon League Freshman of the Year and first-team all-conference.
Khuanrudee averaged 75.46 strokes per round in 2018-19, which is the second-best average in program history. She competed in all 12 tournaments as a freshman and was YSU’s top placer in four of those events. Khuanrudee finished in the top five three times, and she placed among the top 10 six times. She finished one spot out of the top 10 at the Horizon League Championships, and only one freshman placed higher than she did.
Khuanrudee set a new single-season school record for par 3 scoring average at 3.13, and she also posted top-five marks for par 4 scoring average and birdies.
Darius Quisenberry – Men’s Basketball
Darius Quisenberry had arguably the best season by a freshman men’s basketball player since Youngstown State joined the Division I level in 1981-82. The guard was named to the Horizon League All-Freshman Team and All-Horizon League Second Team. No other YSU freshman has ever earned all-league honors.
Quisenberry led the Penguins with 13.8 points per game and 441 total points in 2018-19. He was also the team leader with 120 assists and 43 steals in his freshman campaign. The 441 points were the most scored by a YSU freshman since 1978-79, and his 51 3-pointers set the freshman record.
Quisenberry posted two memorable 30-point games at Beeghly Center. He scored 37 points against UIC on Feb. 16 to post the first 30-point game by a YSU freshman since 1988, and he added 32 versus Cleveland State in the regular-season finale. The 37 points were the most by a freshman in YSU’s Division I era.
John Barnes – Women’s Basketball
YSU Head Women’s Basketball Coach John Barnes reached two milestones during the season. Barnes won the 250th game of his head-coaching career on Jan. 5, 2019, as Youngstown State beat IUPUI 70-52 at Beeghly Center. Just over a month later, he collected his 100th victory as a Penguin as YSU won 83-59 at UIC on Feb. 10. Barnes, who is the fastest YSU coach to reach 100 wins, trails only the legendary Ed DiGregorio in career wins at Youngstown State. He’ll enter his seventh season as a Penguin in 2019-20.
Brian Campbell – Softball
Youngstown State softball coach Brian Campbell is on the Top 10 for the second straight year. He celebrated his 500th career win as a head coach and became YSU’s all-time wins leader in 2018, and the veteran won his 250th game as a Penguin in 2019. Campbell led the Penguins to at least 25 wins for the fourth straight season in 2019, and his 250th victory at YSU came on May 3 at Green Bay. He will enter the 2020 campaign with 251 wins over 11 seasons at Youngstown State.
Brian Gorby – Track & Field
Main photo holding the 2018 Horizon League Men's Cross Country Championship Trophy.
In Brian Gorby’s 25th season as head coach, the YSU cross country and track and field programs had one of their best seasons ever. The Penguins won five out of a six possible titles in 2018-19, sweeping the men’s and women’s outdoor championships while also claiming the men’s cross country title. The five championships in 2018-19 brought Gorby’s career total to a jaw-dropping 41 – eight in the Mid-Continent Conference and 33 in the Horizon League. An impressive 23 of those titles have come in the last six years.
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Chad Zallow Closes Historic Career
The list of top storylines of 2018-19 in Youngstown State Athletics begins with one of the greatest careers of any Penguin or Horizon League student-athlete regardless of sport coming to a close. Chad Zallow’s list of accomplishments in a Youngstown State track and field uniform is extensive to say the least, and he is the only individual who will have his own entry over this 10-day celebration.
Representing the university at the national level, he was a two-time First-Team All-American in the 60-meter hurdles and finished as high as third at the 2017 NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships. The Warren, Ohio, native was also a four-time Second-Team All-American in the hurdles. His high placings against some of the country’s elite runners at additional top-level meets were also numerous.
Zallow was a dominant sprinter at the conference level, winning an eye-popping 17 individual Horizon League titles during his career. He went unbeaten at the indoor conference meet during his career in both the 60m dash and the 60-meter hurdles. He is the only runner in league history to win the 60m dash four times, and he is one of two to win the hurdles four times. He was named the Alfreeda Goff Athlete of the Year in the Horizon League six times, including four times to recognize his excellence during the indoor campaign. Zallow was also named the Outstanding Running Performer at five of his eight conference championship meets.
Zallow ended his career holding school records in the 60m dash, the 60m hurdles and 110m hurdles. He holds those three records, as well as the indoor 200m, at the Horizon League level.