The Marquette women’s volleyball team kicked off its 2012-13 campaign with a 1-1 start in the Marquette Challenge at the Al McGuire Center Friday and Sunday. The women swept their season opener over Bowling Green (25-20, 25-21, 25-19) before dropping a four-setter to Northwestern (25-22, 21-25, 26-28, 18-25) two days later.
On-court communication issues that occasionally showed up in the opening win stalled the Golden Eagles against the Wildcats in the tournament finale. Most of the mistakes seemed to come from glitches between the established core of veterans and the newer, less experienced players.
“The communication stuff will come,” Marquette head coach Bond Shymansky said. “We have a lot of new players playing next to each other. It’ll just take a little bit of time to develop that.”
Even veteran captain and senior middle hitter Dani Carlson acknowledged that some of the kinks take time to work out.
“Young players will have consistency issues,” Carlson said. “I had that as a young player, and what we need to do is continue to encourage (the younger players) … we’re looking for them to do big things and I think they know they can do it.”
Some of the newcomers played like seasoned veterans over the weekend. In her first two collegiate matches, freshman outside hitter Erin Lehman led the team in kills. She recorded 12 against Bowling Green and 14 against Northwestern, but took a humble approach to her dazzling performances.
“Right now I’m really just focusing on minimizing my errors and doing what I can to keep the game rolling,” Lehman said. “Right now I’m not focusing on being the big ‘kaboom’ killer, because we have those on our team already.”
On a team that showed inconsistencies in its first two matches, Lehman provided incredible touch and power from the outside in every set and Shymansky is all for that.
“Lehman was great, steady and didn’t get rattled,” he said. “Those are things you don’t often say about freshman, day one, in their first match.”
Shymansky was also impressed by his newest transfer, junior setter Elizabeth Koberstein. A native of Madison, Wis., Koberstein played two seasons at Kentucky before transferring back home. She had 83 assists in her first two matches with the Golden Eagles.
“Brett Favre used to thread the needle and make throws that no one else thought he should make and they would result in Super Bowls,” Shymansky said. “I saw Elizabeth make sets like that tonight.”
Ultimately though, if Marquette can string together wins with consistent play, its core of veteran leaders will be responsible. Shymansky stressed the importance of his captains and older players stepping up following Sunday’s loss.
“Senior leadership is great,” he said. “Experienced leadership is great. They (provide) the calm during the storm. They are the people who know how to smile through the chaos and know how to put a little more grit into their look on the next play.”
Shymansky entrusts those leading roles to captains Carlson and junior Julie Jeziorowski, and in their first two matches both were solid and consistent performers. Carlson recorded 19 kills over the weekend, while Jeziorowski notched 20 digs in each match. Both think they can help ease the transition of the less experienced players.
Carlson showed her leadership right away on Friday, as she smacked a kill cross-court for the first point of the 2012-13 season.
“It’s important for the older players and obviously the captains to really show what Marquette volleyball is going to do, and the first point really dictates that,” Carlson said.
Jeziorowski, Marquette’s rock across the back line, credited practice and the friendly confines of the Al for what should be a quick start to the season.
“We do a lot of 6-on-6 play (in practice),” Jeziorowski said, “so I don’t think the transition is going to be to hard into game play. We have an opportunity where we play a lot of home games, so that will help get us rolling.”