YOUNGSTOWN - If the Youngstown State University women's basketball team has an inkling of improving upon last year's 10-20 record, they'll have to lean on the front court combination of Brandi Brown and Heidi Schlegel.
But, the backcourt must improve.
They lose the leadership of last year's seniors Kenya Middlebrooks (11.2 points per game) and point guard Macey Nortey (109 assists). Then, the Penguins saw Kelsea Fickiesen leave the program after one year. She had 6.8 points per game and shot a team-high 44.1 percent from the floor.
Brown led the team with 15.9 points and 9.3 rebounds per game, while Schlegel had 9.7 points per contest.
The season starts Nov. 9 at Pittsburgh and Horizon League start Jan. 12 at Valparaiso.
"I think Brandi and Heidi can be as good as anybody in the frontcourt," YSU third-year coach Bob Boldon said. "Our guards have a lot of work to do to get to the level Horizon League guards play at. I think they're working hard. They'll get there. You're talking about getting there in January and it's October. There's a lot of things we need to do between now and then.
"If we do those, we could be as good as anybody in the conference."
There's plenty of guards on the team, including walk-on and Lowellville native Taylor Hvisdak and Boardman's Monica Touvelle. But, Boldon said the guards have plenty of improving to do and time do so.
Former Lutheran East standout 6-foot-2 junior forward Latisha Walker transferred in from Xavier, while 5-9 sophomore guard Janae Jackson came in from Northern Illinois. Both have to sit out this season due to NCAA transfer rules.
Meanwhile, Brown wants to exude her leadership
"It's about making sure we communicate what the standards are - knowing what the right and wrong way is to play," Brown said. "Knowing every day we have to meet that standard. If we don't meet that standard, it will be a loss for us.
"As a leader, making sure I'm going on with what coach Boldon says."
Brown and the rest of the YSU team is ready for this season.
"I think we've got past trying hard," Brown said. "Competing is something we work on all the time. Winning is our main goal."