Archive for March, 2011

Phantoms Drop Shootout Loss To Waterloo


The red-hot Youngstown Phantoms built a three goal lead in the first period, but let it slip away over the next two periods.  The Phantoms even trailed 4-3 in the waning moments but were able to score and force overtime.  In the end, unfortunately, Alex Guptill would score the lone goal of a shootout and Waterloo would sneak out victorious.

The Phantoms got on the board first when Ryan Belonger beat CJ Motte (above) to score his 15th goal of the season and put Youngstown ahead 1-0 with nine minutes and thirty seconds gone in the opening period.  New guy on the block, Danny Mattson, continued to be a points machine for Curtis Carr as he gathered an assist.

Just over two minutes later, Cody Strang (below) connected from short range to notch his 14th goal on the year.  Strang’s even strength goal yielded an assist to Chris Bradley and came with a man advantage.

With 4:01 left in the opening period, Youngstown scored on another powerplay chance to go up 3-0 when Adam Berkle got in on the act and pegged his 17th goal of the season.  Jiri Sekac was given an assist in a period where the Phantoms outshot the Blackhawks 19-8.


In the second period, Waterloo found the scoreboard when Alex Guptill beat Jordan Tibbett 3:34 into the second period.  Gupptil’s goal was of the powerplay variety and Andrew Panzarella was credited with an assist.  Waterloo inched closer making it 3-2 with 5:54 left in the second period with another powerplay goal.  Tyson Fulton got a break when he beat Tibbett on the glove side while Tibbett was using his hands to scoot back into his crease after making a save.  The second period would end with the Phantoms ahead 3-2 and holding a 37-14 edge in shots on goal.

Waterloo tied the game, 3-3, with16:41 left in the game.  Jamie Hill took a feed from Vince Hinostroza and scored shorthanded to knot the contest.  For Hill, it marked the eighth time he found the back of a net this season.

Waterloo scored a fourth consecutive goal to take a 4-3 lead with 4:28 left in the game,  Tyler Zepeda hit a 20-foot wrist shot unassisted that got by Tibbett.


With 3:22 left in the game, Berkle connected unassisted on a big powerplay goal that would tie the game at 4-4.  Berkle’s second of the game drove the big Covelli Centre crowd into a frenzy.  Regulation would end as both teams had a four under their respective cities.  The Phantoms, however, outshot Waterloo 50-21.

In the extra session nobody could score setting up a shootout.  The first Blackhawk to attempt a shot was Alex Guptill who barely trickled one in.  The remaining nine shooters did not score and Waterloo snuck out of the building with the shootout win.  The Phantoms used Berkle, Mattson, Strang, Loney, and Sekac to take the shots.

Assistant Coach Brad Patterson talked about the loss.  “If we play like we did in the first period, we can play anyone in the league with success.  However, it hurts to lose a three goal lead and come out on the short end.  Credit Waterloo for capitalizing on our mistakes and scoring on their powerplays.  We feel good about fighting back to tie the game and get the point, but we also feel we should have never been in that position tonight.”

Exclusive Q & A With Kelly Pavlik


Kelly Pavlik is ready to get back on the ride.  He learned the first time through that the ride goes really fast but it is enjoyable and there is nothing like being on top.  The former champion and #1 ranked WBC 168 pound fighter is set to get back into the ring on May 7 on the Shane Mosley vs Manny Pacquiao undercard in Las Vegas.   His opponent for the fight is Alfonso Lopez who is 21-0 and has won eleven fights in the past two years.

For Pavlik, it is a nice break to step back into the limelight on such a hyped card.  The fight card will be available as part of a Showtime Pay-Per-View and is being promoted by Top Rank and the great Bob Arum.

I had a chance to talk with Pavlik recently about some issues that fans want the answers to.

Paneech: Any chance that you and Paul Williams will ever fight?

Pavlik:  I have always wanted Paul Williams. If you go back and check the records, before I fought Bernard Hopkins, I was supposed to fight Paul Williams.  He backed out because he wasn’t happy with the money.  So I end up fighting a guy two weight classes higher than me, a living legend, Bernard Hopkins, as compared to fighting Williams who was coming up in weight.  I have always wanted that fight. The staph infection was proven and I couldn’t have done much more than had the kid come over to my house and hook me up to the IV.  Now, I am not sure if it would be worth it to fight him because everyone will say that Sergio Martinez ruined him.  It’s kind of a no-win situation, but if that is what the fans and the public want to see, a fight can happen at a catch weight.

Paneech: Will you train the same way as you have in the past using the ironman approach or are you going to change things up?

Pavlik: I am still going to use the ironman training, but we are really also going to change things up this time around.  We are still going to do the strength and agility training using ironman technique.  We are also going to try to get a lot more core work.  I want to do more with bends and flexibility, things that are lower impact on the body and easier on the knees like swimming.  My energy level is good and body is healed and I had a nice little break, but it is time to start working on other things.


Paneech: During your press conference you said you were refocused and hungry.  How hungry are you and can you regain your status as the top dog in this sport at a different weight class?

Pavlik: I thought pretty far ahead and I like the Super Middleweight weight class, it is just loaded with great fighters.  It’s a hell of a division and some people are saying that I am stupid for going there, but I don’t know what weight class they expect me to go to.  There are a lot of competitive fights there for me.  I can’t wait to get back into it, I can’t wait to spar and see where I am at.  The WBC has me ranked number one at that weight class and people are complaining that I have never won a legitimate fight at that weight class, so it is unwarranted.  I did fight at that weight class though.  My second fight with Jermaine Taylor was fought at that weight.

Paneech: So how can you measure the competition and know it’s a good move?

Pavlik: Well, Taylor was beating Arthur Abraham and was destroying Carl Froch.  So, if Taylor was competitive at that weight class what does that say about me?  The only way to address that problem and silence the critics is to go in there and just win.  That’s something I am really looking forward to, getting past Alfonso Lopez on May 7, shaking the rust off, and silencing the critics, again.

Mentally,  Pavlik is ready to roll.  Physically, the weight will not be as big of a problem as it was when he was fighting at 160.  Look for The Ghost to splash back into the sport of boxing with renewed vigor, greater focus, and very realistic expectations.  Personally, I think Carl Froch was out of line when he said he could easily defeat Pavlik.  Time will prove me right.

YSU Women Celebrate Senior Day


Saturday Bojana “Boki” Dimitrov played her last home game as a Youngstown State Penguin.  The ending was bittersweet for the fiery Serbian because she rolled her ankle, only logged five minutes, and did not score a point in the Penguins victory over Loyola–not quite the way it was planned. Before the game during the shoot around, Dimitrov made her way over to the media table and thanked everyone, just a fraction of the class this kid has.

Penguin Coach Bob Boldon talked about losing his lone senior.  “She provided a lot of character and perspective.  She lived through a war, an actual war.  So as we complain about gas prices going up and all of our problems, someone who lived through a war keeps things in perspective for us. She genuinely loves to play basketball.  She always played hard and that just carried over because she always practiced hard too which is great for the younger kids to learn from.”


Brittney Zemko (above) also participated in her last game as a YSU Cheerleader.  Zemko was the lone senior honored of a great cheering squad that is appreciated but seldom written about.  Give credit to these young ladies and men for the hard work and preparation that goes into all of the backflips, pyramids, and chants we often, as fans, take for granted.

Congratulations also go to Vytas Sulskis and Dan Boudler who played in their last games as Penguins.  Sulskis had a fantastic career and did his home country, Lithuania, very proud.  Boudler was a quieter and more reserved guy who did a lot of the dirty work inside during his playing career.  They will both be missed.

Congratulations to all of the seniors on a job well done!

Youngstown State Coasts To 84-65 Win Over Loyola To End Regular Season


Youngstown State University finished the season on a high note and kept their momentum heading into the Horizon League Tournament as they handled Loyola, 84-65, on Senior Day.  Brandi Brown was sensational in the win, scoring 27 points and grabbing seven rebounds.  This was a physical game, especially the first half, when three players had to leave the contest injured, one being Boki Dimitrov.

Bojana Dimitrov was honored as the lone senior player before the game and had to leave the game when she sprained her ankle with 11:31 left in the first half.  Not the storybook ending anyone would have wished for the bubbly Serbian in her last home game.  Brown caught an inadvertent elbow to the face while contesting a shot and would miss a stretch of just over seven minutes for the Penguins, who proved worthy even without Brown holding a 13-11 lead while she was attended to.  When she came back with what looked like a half-roll of Charmin in her nose (see top picture), Brown made up for lost time.  In the second half, she moved into 18th on the YSU all-time scoring list, quite an accomplishment for just a sophomore.


Brown impacted the game as soon as she returned scoring  12 and extending her consecutive free throws made streak to 17-17 on a 5-5 first half.  The streak would end at 17 as she missed the first of two charity tosses in the second half.  With 13:25 left in the game, Brown hit a couple more free throws to put YSU comfortably ahead, 52-38.  Monica Albano did her best to keep Loyola in the game when she buried a three with 10:59 left in the game to cut the YSU lead to 54-43.

Kenya Middlebrooks and Liz Hornberger each hit a three to extend the Penguin lead to 66-55 with 5:58 left in the game.  Albano again responded for Loyola hitting another three from the corner to cut the lead to 66-58.  The Penguins stretched their lead to 80-62 on a pair of free throws from Macey Nortey with 1:38 left in the game.

“Our intensity at practice has really kicked up”, said Hornberger after the game.  “Brandi always shows up and if the rest of the team intensity can stay where it is, we can play with anyone in the league.  We are going into the tournament hot.”


YSU got big numbers from Brown again as she set a few more records.  Brown finished the game with 27 points and moved into 18th all-time on the scoring list.  She also recorded the fifth highest point total in a season.  Hornberger had a career high in points with 12, all threes, and has given some quality minutes the last few games.  Tieara Jones played a solid game recording 11 rebounds to go with her 11 points.  Monica Touvelle (above) and Kenya Middlebrooks each hit four threes.  For Touvelle, the twelve points was a career-high.  In fact, five Penguins hitting double figures had not happened since 2004.

With the win, Youngstown State nabbed their second in a row to end the regular season and improved to 6-23 and 4-14 in the Horizon League.  The 84 points scored was the highest total for the Penguins offense this season who shot a blazing 53.8% from the floor in the second half.

Loyola got a great effort from Monica Albano who finished the game with 34 points.  The Ramblers dipped to 11-18 and 5-13 in the Horizon League.

Coach Bob Boldon talked about the constant improvement and expectations heading into the league tournament.  “The way our offense is run, it takes time to pick things up and develop.  We are better than we were last month and this is when you want the team to be playing their best basketball.  It is better to be a bottom team in a tournament and make crazy things happen, than being one of the good teams and having all of the crazy stuff happen to you.”

YSU Head Coach Eric Wolford: Leaving No Stone Unturned


A little bit more than a year ago, Ron Strollo made a great decision.  That decision’s name was Eric Wolford. In a football hungry town, someone with more passion for the game of football, his players, his family, and anyone he meets was brought in to be the savior. At first, it was hard to tell if someone could be so passionate about so many different things.  Time is usually the best test and after his first full season, the passion is genuinely obvious.  Granted, a 3-8 season will not win many coach of the year awards, but a long-term plan is in place, a huge recruiting class of highly touted prospects has been added to the mix, and winning feels like it is only a moment away.  I got to sit down with Coach Wolford and review 2010, preview 2011, and just talk about football and life in general.

Paneech: Props on the recruiting class, very defense-heavy.  Did you feel like you filled some holes?

Wolford: No question.  We signed 24 players on defense.  I don’t worry as much about our offense because we are headed in the right direction and do the things we need to do.  Now we have the ability to rotate some guys in on defense and finish games.  That was our emphasis and you can see it when you look at the recruiting class.  Our staff did a great job, and we feel it is a very good class.

Paneech: How do you feel about the Youngstown media coverage you had in the last year?

Wolford: I have had a good relationship with the Youngstown media.  If something negative gets written or announced, I feel that they are entitled to their opinion and that is what sells papers and gets ratings.  Do I always agree with what gets said?  No, but I also understand that there are media versions of stories too.  Sometimes I give you guys the media version.


Paneech: A couple of weeks ago, there was a tragedy near campus where a young man and YSU student lost his life.  If people Google Youngstown State and that incident pops up , could it deter from your recruiting?

Wolford: There are multiple shootings happening on campuses across the country, unfortunately.  There was a football player at Arizona State who was recently shot.  In our society today, it has become a little commonplace because young people don’t know how to handle their emotions.  We all get caught up in it, but I do know that we have the third safest campus in the State of Ohio. I’ll continue to dwell on the positive.

Paneech: Last year at this time, you were more worried about acclamation of getting to know the players, it seemed to be a huge focal point going into Spring ball.  With that not so much of a hurdle this season, where is the concentration centered to?

Wolford: Last year there was an acclamation period for both players and coaches.  Now, it is completely different, we are 360 degrees from where we were last year at this time.  We don’t have problems with anyone talking back or guys being on time.  They understand work ethic and doing things right.  They understand that if you are running a drill and you have to touch that line, that line, and this line at full speed and they don’t go full speed or miss a line, that they are going to go again.  We are now at the next step and we are working on finishing, learning to finish better.  All of the character issues that surfaced in the past have been taken care of.  Are we all angels?  By no means.  You will really like this football team. They are good kids and very enjoyable to be around.  The chemistry is unbelievable. We know that we have a chance to be a good football team and we are close.

Paneech: How many steps are there to get where you want?

Wolford: I don’t feel there is a set number of steps.  It is a process that you have to patiently go through.  Any football program that has had sustained success has always had a good foundation.  This group that is here right now is the foundation and I feel good about building on it.  These kids push each other and hold one another accountable, they also take care of one another.  We put in a 2 a.m. curfew because nothing good happens after two in the morning, it was done for their protection.  Not one guy complained.  I am not out there checking, but if anyone gets in trouble after two, they are going to be in serious trouble.


Paneech: You did recruit a few wide receivers among your defensive slew.  Unfortunately, gone is Dominique Barnes.  Is that position a concern?

Wolford: At receiver, we lost Jelani Berassa, which was a bigger loss than anyone could have anticipated.  He is a tremendously talented young man who is maturing.  He is one of those guys that it is a pleasure to be around and he has got a bright future if he continues to work hard and do things right.  I think we are untapped at receiver and that we underachieved.  [Kevin] Watts came in here and did some good things as a freshman, but other than that, I think we underachieved, and that is not acceptable.  I have addressed that with my coaching staff and we are going to become overachievers at that position in the immediate future.  We signed three kids from South Carolina and one from Cleveland that are very talented.  They are going to be raw and are not a quick-fix solution, but we are not looking for a quick-fix, but rather a foundation.  I didn’t want to play a lot of freshmen last season, it just happened.  The best players are going to play.

Paneech: What about other positions like defensive backs and a new kicker?

Wolford: We have got two junior college safeties coming in here that can flat out play and they could have went a lot of other places, so we have competition now.  Donald [D’Alesio] is going back to corner a year older now.  Randy Louis is a guy who exceeded our expectations last season.  He is working hard and is up to 184 pounds now, he is all-in.  Obviously, we lost a great kicker, but we feel pretty good about [David] Brown. He is a highly-rated kicker whose film speaks for itself.  He has got a little bit of swagger but he knows what the expectations are.  Jake Smith decided to transfer and he isn’t even playing football anymore.  Football is not for everybody.  It takes work, it’s hard, and it’s tough and some guys can’t take it. We have raised our levels of expectation around here with stronger work ethic and more commitment.  Some guys can’t keep up, so they have to find something else to do. It doesn’t make them a bad person, I just say ‘I wish you well’, and let them know if there is anything I can do to help them out, that I would.


Paneech: Discuss the charity you are involved with and what sort of things you and your wife do to keep it active.

Wolford: We started a foundation because my wife and I have a son who basically has a disability.  We realized that there are a lot of costs that come with having a child with a disability that medical insurance companies don’t cover.  We said we wanted to start giving money to kids with disabilities to help them do various things.  This past year we gave 100 turkeys away at Thanksgiving.  We want to put something else together for Easter, we sponsor people for Christmas, I have paid people’s rent, I have given computers to families so that they can get their business back to a level where it needs to be to financially support their family, whatever the case may be.  It’s a very open-ended foundation with the key component being to help families or kids dealing with disabilities that don’t have the financial ability to make ends meet.

Paneech: The foundation is called No Stone Unturned, named after your son Stone.  Is it growing?

Wolford: It’s getting bigger and our goal was never anything other than helping people.  We give all of the money away.  I give away more money than I have.  It’s something I believe in and I call it “paying forward”.  I have been very fortunate to never have been hurting for anything, but I also believe part of that is from being generous.  I am a paying forward kind of guy.  My wife is the foundation.  We are having a Pancake Breakfast April 17th, the day after the Spring Game at Mt. Carmel in Youngstown.

Paneech: What were the highs and lows from last year?

Wolford: I think that there isn’t a day that  goes by where I don’t feel honored to be the coach here.  This is a very special place with tremendous tradition.  I know there is a lot of pressure and the average person cannot handle it.  I think there are so many speaking engagements where I see the community and people that support this program.  I embrace the expectations.  Last year is gone, and that was part of the process.  Would we have a solid foundation today if we won five games last year?  You learn more from losing than you do from winning.  When you win games, you just push forward and never address your weaknesses.  So what happens is, over time, your weaknesses become bigger cracks.  There are a lot of coaches who have never lost, they have never had to pick themselves up off of the floor.  Some people joke that God wanted to see if I was going to pull a Woody Hayes last year and just go crazy. Through my family and support, I enjoyed things.  It was a lesson learned.  Sometimes I feel if we would have won a bunch of  those games and would have came back with a false sense of security.  As much as I hate to admit it, we are not the most talented football team out there. We are gonna be someday, but we are not right now.  The guys that come in need to be developed.  There needs to be accountability.  We shouldn’t be the inferior team on the field, it’s unacceptable.  We’re Youngstown State, we are Youngstown State.

Brandi Brown Scores 35 As YSU Wins 72-58


It has been a tough few years for the Youngstown State Women’s Basketball team.  The Lady Penguins looked dominant and Brandi Brown scored a career-high 35 points as YSU coasted to a 72-58 victory over UIC.  Brown also tied a school record with 12 consecutive free throws made tying Brianne Kenneally and Liz Hauger.

With the win, the Penguins could finish ninth in the Horizon League.  It is a mark of improvement over last season and the Penguins improved to 5-23, and 3-14 in the Horizon League.  UIC fell to .500 at 14-14 with the loss.

The first half was all YSU.  The Penguins held a 41-23 halftime lead.  The 41 point effort in the first half was the second highest total this season.  Brown paced the Penguins with 17 points and five rebounds.  UIC got ten first half points from Briana Hinkle.  UIC turned the ball over 13 times in the half and got only one assist.  Youngstown State, which was outrebounded 20-18 in the opening half, shot 5-15 from three point land, whereas UIC did not attempt a three.

In the second half, UIC rallied to trail only 53-42 with 11:35 left in the game.  Too much Brandi Brown on this night, who tied her career high of 29 points with a pair of free throws at the 9:58 mark to restore a 12 point lead for the Penguins.  Liz Hornberger hit a three to also tie her career-high of nine points to put YSU ahead 60-49.


Jasmine Bailey, who played a great second half for the Flames, cut the Youngstown State lead to nine points at 60-51 when she followed her own miss.  The Penguins, however, responded when Tieara Jones hit a runner and drew the foul with 6:05 left to extend the YSU lead to 63-51.

The Penguins couldn’t ask for much more from Brown who finished with a career-best 35 points and 11 rebounds.  She was also an impressive 12-12  from the free throw line.  In fact, the entire Penguins team was a perfect 17-17 from the line.  It was Brown’s 12th double-double of the season.

While looking at his stat sheet, Coach Bob Bolden joked, “17 of 17, it was good coaching.”

UIC got 13 points from Bailey and Taylor Foulks contributed another 14.  Unfortunately for the Flames, it is hard to win on the road when you turn the ball over  17 times.


Boldon also commented on his team keeping composure down the stretch.  “This was a lot like the Cleveland State game.  We had a good lead at halftime and collapsed.  I left that game wondering if we had learned anything.  I got my answer tonight that we did indeed learn something.  I was happy that we were able to keep our composure down the stretch.  Brandi was fantastic. This might be the most complete game we played this year.”

YSU Comeback Bid Falls Short At Valpo


The Youngstown State men’s basketball team used a furious rally to cut a 19-point second-half deficit to one, but dropped an 80-71 decision to Valparaiso in the first round of the 2011 Horizon League Championship.

The Penguins’ season ends with a 9-21 record while Valparaiso imroves to 22-10 and advances to face Detroit in the second round on Friday, March 4, a 8:30 p.m.

Sophomore Damian Eargle scored a game-high 21 points and just missed a double-double with nine rebounds. Eargle also blocked nine shots. Freshman Kendrick Perry scored 16 points with seven rebounds and five assists. Senior Vytas Sulskis and sophomore Blake Allen each scored 11 points.

Sulskis ends his career with 1,311 career points which ranks 16th on the Youngstown State all-time scoring list.

The Guins trailed by 19 points, 65-46 at the 12:21 mark of the second half, but used a 24-6 run over the next 10 minutes to get within one, 71-70 with at the 2:47 mark.

With 3:40 to play and trailing by six, Perry scored five straight points for the Guins – a 3-pointer and a jumper – to bring the Guins within one. 

Brandon Wood hit two clutch jumpers to put Valpo up four, 75-71, and the Crusaders hit five of their last six free throws to seal the game.

Keyed by six points by Eargle and four by Perry, the Guins scored 12 straight points to cut the deficit down to seven points, 65-58, after a jumper DuShawn Brooks with 8:41 to go.

The Crusaders, however, answered with the next four points to regain an 11-point advantage, 69-58, at the 7:50 mark.

Two free throws by Allen, a jumper by Eargle and a 3-pointer by Allen brought the Guins within four before Cory Johnson hit a jumper at the 3:54 mark to give the Crusaders a six-point edge, 71-65.

In a first half that featured nine ties and six lead changes. the Guins shot 50 percent but committed 10 turnovers which led to 15 Crusader points.

The Guins built a 10-point lead, 20-10, after using a 12-2 run midway through the half.

The Crusaders, though, scored the next 12 points to take a 22-20 advantage and held the Guins scoreless for more than four minutes.

After a 3-point play by Allen and a jumper by Eargle, the Guins regained a 25-22 lead at the 7:52 mark.

Perry hit two free throws at the 4:39 mark to give the Guins a 33-32 lead but the Crusaders outscored the Guins, 12-2, to take a 44-35 lead into the lockerroom at halftime.

YSU Will Play Valpo In First Round of Tournament


Youngstown State Head Coach Jerry Slocum is one of 18 active coaches with more than 600 career victories.  He currently ranks tied for sixth among active Division I coaches with 638 career wins. Valparaiso Head Coach Homer Drew also has 638 career victories. One of the coaches will have 639 and one will still have 638 after this game.  It is kind of a neat, underlying theme to the first round Horizon League matchup pitting YSU against Valpo.

As far as the game itself is concerned, this is the 32nd meeting between Youngstown State (seeded ninth) and Valparaiso (seeded fourth) in a series that dates back to 1989.  The Crusaders own a 24-7 advantage in the all-time series and have won the last 12 contest.  The Crusaders swept the season series from the Penguins, winning 79-55 in Valparaiso on Jan. 7 and 86-76 in overtime in Youngstown on Feb. 5. The last time the Guins defeated the Crusaders was a on Jan. 15, 2000, at the Beeghly Center.  The last time the Guins won at Valparaiso was a 69-66 win on Jan. 24, 1998.

The Guins and Crusaders have met twice in the postseason when both were members of the Mid-Continent Conference.  Valparaiso defeated Youngstown State in the 1998 Mid-Con championship game, 67-48, and in the 1995 second round, 77-52.

Tipoff is slated for 8 p.m. EST at the Athletics-Recreation Center.

YSU’s Damian Eargle Voted To Horizon League All-Newcomer Team


Youngstown State  Sophomore Damian Eargle was named to the Horizon League All-Newcomer Team in a vote by the league’s head coaches, sports information directors and selected media outlets, the league office announced on Monday.

Eargle is averaging 11 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game while shooting 51.7 percent from the floor.

Eargle also led the Horizon League in blocks per game and his 86 blocked shots ranks second on the Youngstown State single-season list, yet he was left on the league’s all-defensive team by the league’s coaches.   He also ranks seventh in the Horizon League in rebounding and seventh with 4.0 defensive rebounds per game.

How can a player that leads the conference in blocked shots be left off of the all-defensive team?  C’mon Horizon League, share the love.

The 6-foot-7 forward has scored in double figures 14 times and posted two double-doubles.