The Marquette women’s volleyball team jumped out to a 3-0 start in the Big East with two road wins over the weekend. It defeated Georgetown in three sets (25-14, 25-20, 25-21) Friday and knocked off Villanova in four sets (22-25, 25-22, 25-20, 25-14) Saturday.
“It’s kind of cool to be at the top right out of the gate,” senior libero Julie Jeziorowski said. “It puts us in a really good position, so we’re excited about that.”
Granted, Villanova and Georgetown are probably the two worst teams in the new, nine-team Big East. However, that didn’t keep coach Bond Shymansky from finding value in the two victories.
“Winning on the road early in conference is going to be important for us as the season goes on,” Shymansky said. “For our young group of hitters, it’s important that they respond to tough situations in moments when we might be a little flat.”
Shymansky must have been proud of those young offensive players, because several of them had extremely solid weekends. Against Georgetown, the team combined to hit .410, and Autumn Bailey (12 kills), Meghan Niemann (eight kills, .538 hitting percentage) and Jackie Kocken (six kills, .667 hitting percentage) powered the Marquette attack. In the match versus Villanova, Nele Barber bounced back from a killess Friday to hit double-digits with 10 kills and Bailey notched yet another double-double with 15 kills and 11 digs.
The weekend challenged the Golden Eagles because of the way the matches were scheduled. The Georgetown match started at 8 p.m. Friday. After the sweep, the team hopped on a bus and arrived in Philadelphia at 1 a.m. They got some sleep and woke up the next morning, briefly prepared and then played Villanova at 7 p.m.
“The whole trip in general was long, but the games were short,” Jeziorowski said. “We’re really good at preparing quickly. Bond’s really good at finding time to prepare us quickly yet get the right rest in.”
Still, it stands to reason that Marquette may have dropped the first set against the Wildcats because of the quick turnaround. Jeziorowski refuted that, saying that Villanova forced the Golden Eagles out of system.
“Villanova is just a really strong serving team,” she said. “It kind of got us off of our feet because our bread and butter is when we’re in system, we’re a really terminal team. If we can’t do that, we can’t play our offense.”
Shymansky attributed the early struggles in Philadelphia to the conditions inside the Jake Nevin Field House.
“It was an absolute sweatbox in their gym,” Shymansky said. “It had to be 90 degrees in there and humid as all get out. We were really struggling that first set.”
He said the momentum of the match shifted thanks to the arrival of another one of Marquette’s athletic contingents.
“The momentum really shifted when our men’s soccer team showed up,” Shymansky said. “All of a sudden, it just turned the whole environment into a home match for us. You could see the temperament and demeanor of our team change because of that support.”
With the two wins, Marquette has started 3-0 on the road in the Big East for the first time in Shymansky’s tenure. The team has a golden chance to go to 4-0 on the road Sunday in Omaha, Neb. as they take on 10-4 Creighton, who just dropped out of the top 25 for the first time this season. The Bluejays knocked Marquette out of the NCAA Tournament in the first round last season.
“For the returners, I know it’s revenge,” Jeziorowski said. “To get that 4-0 against Creighton would be awesome.”