In each of his previous four seasons at Marquette, coach Bond Shymansky brought in a true impact star that either played immediately or paid dividends down the road.
In 2009, he had Dani Carlson. In 2010, Julie Jeziorowski joined the program. In 2011, Bond nabbed Lindsey Gosh, whose true skill didn’t show until last season. And in 2012, Erin Lehman showed flashes of brilliance as the teams best pure outside hitter.
This season, a group of six freshmen will try to fill the shoes of the impact players that came before them. Through preseason practice and Saturday’s scrimmage, Burlington, Ontario native Autumn Bailey looks most likely to step into the star freshman role.
“Autumn is super dynamic, jumps real high, hits hard, can do all of the skills very well and is really competitive,” Shymansky said. “She’s pretty experienced, having played with the Canadian Junior National Team.”
Bailey played in the front and back row during the scrimmage, which is a similar role to the one Gosh held for the team last season. Bailey also played nearly the entire exhibition with the first team, a group of veterans with tons of collegiate experience.
“Playing with the older girls is a good experience for me,” Bailey said. “They bring out the best in all of us. It definitely makes you want play better. They hold you accountable for what you do on the court.”
Shymansky said he thinks Bailey will sneak up on some people with her success, since not many coaches saw her play in Canada.
“She’s an unknown quantity because not many American schools saw her or recruited her,” he said. “In some way, she’s going to be a secret, but not for very long. She has a chance to be a go-to hitter in our lineup.”
Bailey wants to win Big East Freshman of the Year, but knows her most important focus should be her improvement and how that will help the team overall.
“I just want to be the best I can be for our team and get better and improve in every area I can,” she said.
Bailey isn’t the only freshman outside hitter with some hype attached to her. Berlin, Germany’s own Nele Barber enters the program as Shymansky’s first European recruit at Marquette. Shymansky thinks Barber makes the team significantly deeper than they’ve been before.
“The late addition of Nele Barber from Germany was great for us,” Shymansky said. “She’s contending for playing time. To have more left-side hitter depth than we’ve ever had before gives us a lot of options that we’ve never had at Marquette in my first four years here.”
Shymansky also has two promising new middle hitters at his disposal in Ohio native Rachel Vidourek and Colorado’s Teal Schnurr. The pair will compete with redshirt freshmen Jackie Kocken and Megan Niemann for two vacant spots in the front-line rotation.
“Teal and Rachel just came in this year and have already gotten better,” senior setter Elizabeth Koberstein said. “It’s really exciting to see and I’m glad I can help orchestrate their development.”
Shymansky loves seeing the pair in action.
“What’s exciting is to watch both Teal and Rachel Vidourek now competing as incoming freshmen,” he said. “They’re talented and they’re long and athletic, and they’re competing for playing time as well.”
Joining the four hitters are two defensive specialists, Nicki Barnes from Naperville, Ill. and Lauren Houg from Plymouth, Minn.
Jeziorowski, one of the team’s senior captain, says all of the freshmen have come a long way already and she expects big things from them this fall and beyond.
“Even though they’re new, that doesn’t mean they’re any different,” she said. “Our freshmen are really stepping up, they’re really mature right away. This is one of my favorite freshmen classes ever.”