The Marquette women’s volleyball team (20-7, 10-2 Big East) has a chance to wrap up its first ever Big East championship at home this weekend. The only thing standing in its way: showdowns against the top two teams in the conference.
Marquette will square off against the Louisville Cardinals (17-6, 11-1 Big East) Friday night, followed by a Sunday afternoon showdown with the No. 19 Cincinnati Bearcats (24-4, 11-1 Big East) with a chance to crown itself as the Big East champion. The Golden Eagles will win the conference outright with victories over both schools.
The team ran its winning streak to a league-best 13 games with a hard-fought, five-set win against Seton Hall last Sunday, a win that coach Bond Shymansky said will help the team going forward.
“I think it helps our belief that we can win the nitty-gritty game, even when it’s not pretty,” Shymansky said. “And sometimes you have to do it that way. That was a gut-check win for us.”
Senior setter Nikki Klingsporn also said the team’s current win streak has been a “nice momentum boost” for the team and has given it a lot more confidence heading into this weekend.
Momentum and confidence will be important for Marquette, but Shymansky said the keys to victory are aggressive serving, a balanced attack on offense and, most of all, a level head.
Playing both matches at the Al McGuire Center will also give the Golden Eagles a home court advantage that will hopefully play to their favor.
“We took all of our big shots early in the season against big opponents at their gym,” Shymansky said. “Now we finally get to do it at Marquette. This is the time where we call on our experience in our gym from practice day in and day out, plus the hard work and sweat we put on that floor, to outwork and overpower these two teams this weekend.”
Aside from the matches, Sunday is senior day. Klingsporn and teammate middle hitter Rabbecka Gonyo will be honored for their time in the program. Shymansky praised the job his two seniors have done and noted the importance they have had on the 2010 season.
“Rabbecka and Nikki have done such a stellar job in our rise to success,” Shymansky said. “Rabbecka is number one in the nation in hitting efficiency, and that’s in large part because of her work ethic, but also because of the connection she has with Nikki.
“Nikki is her quarterback, and she keeps giving her really good balls. She has done a great job of taking over our offense and running it at a high level.”
Shymansky and his players have had this weekend circled on their calendars for quite some time and are prepared for the stretch run before the Big East and NCAA Tournaments.
“It has been hard for us to not look forward to this weekend because we know it’s such a big one for us,” junior outside hitter Ashley Beyer said. “But now that it’s here, I think we’re all really pumped for it.”
As for Shymansky, it’s all about putting two “W’s” on the board.
“When you’re good enough, you find a way to win,” Shymansky said. “And we need to find a way to do it this weekend.”