The Marquette women’s volleyball team is off to a strong Big East start. The team boasts a 3-0 conference record (12-3 overall) with victories over Syracuse at home and DePaul and Notre Dame on the road. The conference challenges will continue this weekend when Pittsburgh and South Florida come to the Al McGuire Center to face the Golden Eagles.
Even though Pitt and USF traditionally don’t make huge splashes in volleyball, junior defensive specialist Rachel Stier said Marquette will treat them like juggernauts in practice this week.
“We’re preparing for Pitt and USF like any other team,” Stier said. “We prepare for everyone the same. Any team you play can beat you. It doesn’t matter who it is. We’re taking them just as hard as we would take Louisville and Cincinnati.”
Coach Bond Shymansky is just as wary as Stier. He knows the importance of every game for Marquette’s chances of winning the Big East. Shymansky provided a scouting report for each team, starting with Pitt.
“Pittsburgh just went (three) sets with Louisville, so they’ve got some good things going,” Shymansky said. “They have some pretty athletic players on their team. We’ve been fortunate the last couple of years to play well against them. I’m glad we’re playing them at home.”
Shymansky also referred to recent impressive results when breaking down USF.
“South Florida just beat Cincinnati in five sets, 21-19 in the fifth,” Shymansky said. “South Florida’s a team with a new coach, they’re finding a different groove, and they’re doing some things that are going to be a tough team for us to battle with.”
However, the importance of the two weekend matches comes from the need for the Golden Eagles to win in their home gym.
“We need to defend home court,” Shymansky said. “We need to take advantage of the atmosphere and the environment we have and really make this a tough place for teams to come in and play.”
Stier agreed, citing the continued increase in confidence that would come from more home wins.
“Two home wins would give us more confidence as we go further through the Big East,” Stier said. “It’s always good to defend our home court and do it for the fans here.”
Junior captain and libero Julie Jeziorowski said the team needs to win this weekend to continue its hot start in conference play.
“It’s important for us to get off to a good Big East start, because if we put ourselves in a good spot for the Big East now, we’ll be good later on in the season,” Jeziorowski said.
Speaking of starts, Marquette had a few bad ones against Notre Dame and DePaul this past weekend. Stier said that starting well against Pitt and USF will help significantly.
“We can come out strong in the first game,” Stier said. “I know we lost the first game at Notre Dame, and that was kind of a doozie. We come out and win the first game and win in three hopefully.”
Ultimately, Shymansky views this weekend as a chance to inch closer to a Big East regular season title.
“These matches become more and more important as we try to do a better job of separating from the rest of the league,” Shymansky said. “If we’re really about winning the Big East regular season championship first, then it means every match. That has to be the mentality.”