The Marquette women’s volleyball team went 3-1 en route to winning the Ambassador Hotel Golden Eagle Classic at the Al McGuire Center this past weekend.
On Friday, the Golden Eagles defeated Eastern Illinois (25-12, 25-19, 25-20) and No. 23 Michigan (25-17, 25-23, 21-25, 25-19). They followed the victories up with a Saturday sweep of Wake Forest (25-18, 25-13, 25-22) and a close defeat at the hands of No. 25 Northern Iowa (25-19, 23-25, 25-17, 21-25, 15-17) on Sunday. Marquette improved to 7-2 with the four matches.
Coach Bond Shymansky said he felt this weekend was huge for the improvement of the program.
“That’s big time,” Shymansky said. “That’s what we believe our program is. It’s big time. People come here and see our team compete, they see us do it in the Al, they get the whole environment, the atmosphere, the level of play, and they say, ‘wow, that’s big time.’”
The keys for the weekend were the emergences of sophomore outside hitter Lindsey Gosh and freshman outside hitter Erin Lehman. Gosh led the team with 51 kills and Lehman pitched in with 40 of her own.
“They’re not rookies anymore, and we’re only three weeks into the season,” Shymansky said. “We weren’t going to come out and make excuses for what we didn’t have from last year. I see them adding new and different elements.”
Senior middle hitter Dani Carlson, who was named Tournament MVP, agreed with her coach about Gosh and Lehman.
“We trust them,” Carlson said. “When they’re out there, we know that they’re smart and we know that they know how to get a kill and take care of the ball … we’re really proud of them and we’re looking for them to continue to do new things.”
In years past, a 3-1 weekend, including a victory against the highest-ranked team Marquette has ever beaten, Michigan, would satisfy Shymansky. However, the mentality has changed with Marquette volleyball.
“I am really pleased with how hard our group worked,” Shymansky said. “This weekend was a lot for them, but in our rise to success and rise to a championship program, we have to be willing to take on all comers.”
Carlson again echoed the message of her head coach.
“I can see so much fight in our team, and that’s a great thing,” Carlson said. “We know we have that extra grit to keep pressing forward. But it always goes back to full-team communication, which we still need to work on.”
The team has taken huge strides early in 2012, however, and Gosh and Lehman are a big reason why.
“I’ve gained a lot of confidence knowing that I’m able to put the ball away and pass the ball on target,” Gosh said. “But I still have more confidence to gain, especially when it comes to my serving.”
Lehman also feels that her confidence is soaring.
“As a freshman, the girls build up my confidence a lot, which helps me get through the game,” Lehman said. “They say, ‘keep swinging, keep going’, and that’s really where my confidence comes from to be a dominating hitter.”
Shymansky’s team showed improvement in big moments in the four matches. The players absorbed a third set defeat on Friday night and knocked off Michigan in four sets.
“The mentality that we’re making as a championship level team is to not take anybody for granted,” Shymansky said, “but most importantly not take ourselves for granted. We know we have to give our best effort every single point we’re playing out there.”
The gritty performances by Marquette displayed its readiness to take the next step as a program.
“We don’t care,” Shymansky said. “We don’t care if you’re ranked or unranked – we want to beat you.”