Coach Bond Shymansky always recruits in the hopes that the player he brings in will take the program forward. Eighteen matches into her collegiate career, freshman outside hitter Erin Lehman has advanced the program with her consistent play.
“She’s super steady out there,” Shymansky said. “I’ve never seen her look dejected or throw a fit after a point. That demeanor allows her to follow. Someday, she’ll pull forward and be a leader, but she doesn’t need to do that right now.”
Steady is probably the best word for Lehman’s season so far. She is the consistent rock to Lindsey Gosh’s wild flair at outside hitter for Marquette. Lehman ranks fourth on the team in kills with 164 and averages 2.64 kills per set.
“I’ve been working on trying to hit around the block, avoid the block and just hit hard,” Lehman said. “I’ve been holding back a little bit and I need to tell myself to just hit the ball.”
Lehman started the season on a hot streak, leading the team in kills through its first two tournaments. But around the third weekend of the season, she started slumping.
“I knew I was going to go through it eventually,” Lehman said. “It’s something you have to work through mentally. I got in my head so much. It will help me a lot knowing that when I get down on myself, I have the potential to bring it back out again.”
Lately, Lehman has popped out of her slump. She had double-digit kills in both matches last weekend and recorded seven against Western Michigan Tuesday.
“I need to keep working on hitting the ball hard and placing it,” Lehman said. “I want to let my team know that they can have confidence in me and I will put the ball away when I need to.”
Shymansky said Lehman’s continued improvement will be crucial to Marquette’s success this season and beyond.
“She certainly has a bright future, but she also has a bright now,” Shymansky said. “Right now, she’s doing good things. Everyday we’re trying to get her to add little wrinkles to what she does offensively or blocking.”
On Tuesday night, Marquette avenged a 2011 loss by sweeping away Western Michigan by scores of 25-23, 25-21 and 25-19. Senior middle hitter Dani Carlson said the win was especially sweet because of last season’s defeat.
“This was about revenge,” Carlson said. “We remember last year and what it was like losing to them terribly on their home court. We didn’t want to do that here because we knew what they had, we could control.”
Shymansky loved the kind of emotional performance his team put in because of the “revenge factor.”
“I thought that was as intense, but also as excited, as we’ve been,” Shymansky said. “You could just tell there was kind of a happy aura to our team out there as competitors. I’m really pleased with that.”
The emotion of the game was the focal point for Shymansky, as his team didn’t have much time to tactically or physically prepare with just one day between matches. He praised his team for promoting positive intensity throughout Tuesday’s victory.
“That’s the difference between ferocity and frustration, and we were ferocious tonight at times,” Shymansky said. “We didn’t get complacent. We didn’t back down because the scoreboard told us we could back down.”
Marquette travels to New Jersey this weekend to take on Seton Hall and Rutgers. Maintaining confidence and a winning attitude will help the team defeat opponents who are inferior on paper, Lehman said.
“It’s a huge challenge for us because playing on the road is so hard,” she said. “This is our first flying trip. Going out and having confidence and, as Bond says, swagger, as a team, that will help us a lot.”
In the end, it’s up to Marquette to make the important emotional choices and succeed.
“That’s where making that choice as individual players and as a collective team to be energetic, focused, intense, communicate well, that’s going to pay off this weekend,” Shymansky said.