The Marquette volleyball team gritted out two five-set wins at Seton Hall and Rutgers over the weekend.
On Saturday, Marquette defeated the Pirates 20-25, 25-16, 25-22, 23-25, 15-11 behind a career-high 19 kills and 11 digs from sophomore outside hitter Lindsey Gosh.
Sunday afternoon, senior right side hitter Holly Mertens (career-high 23 kills) and junior setter Elizabeth Koberstein (career-high 61 assists) powered the Golden Eagles to a comeback victory over Rutgers by scores of 22-25, 28-30, 25-19, 25-17, and 15-10.
Coach Bond Shymansky said Marquette gained great experience from the two wins and was happy his team showed it didn’t have to lose to learn about itself.
“We learned a lot about ourselves this weekend,” Shymansky said. “We’re fortunate to not learn the really hard way. We just learned it the kind of hard way. That was a great wake-up call.”
The Rutgers match tested the Golden Eagles emotionally more than any other in 2012. After falling behind 2-0, the team went into the locker room needing to win three straight sets on the road.
“Bond (Shymansky) talked about how the problem was more on our side of the net,” Koberstein said. “He said that we weren’t showing up emotionally to play, and we all agreed with that. We were playing with fear rather than playing to win. We all knew that, and we all felt that, and it was just a matter of needing to change it.”
And change it they did. Marquette responded by winning the next three sets by at least five points to improve to 17-3 and 7-0 in the Big East.
“Rutgers came out just wanting to really beat us,” Mertens said. “They caught us off guard a little bit. After those first two sets, we knew that it was do-or-die. We didn’t want to go home 6-1 in the Big East. We turned it on and played Marquette volleyball.”
On Saturday, the Golden Eagles faced a different kind of five-set challenge. They won a back-and-forth battle with an emotionally charged Seton Hall squad. Shymansky said Gosh really impressed him in the victory.
“Lindsey Gosh was really amazing against Seton Hall,” Shymansky said. “She was pounding the ball. She blocked well, played great defense, she served really well, passed incredibly well. You could just see she was in the zone.”
Seton Hall was just another notch in Marquette’s five-set belt. The team has won its last four five-frame matches since its last defeat, against Pacific on Sept. 14.
“Five-set matches are more challenging mentally and emotionally,” Koberstein said. “It’s important that we continue to win them. Just knowing that we can win when we’re down will help us.”
Shymansky echoed his setter, crediting his team’s emotional strength for its close-match winning streak.
“When we get pressed, we’re willing to dig a little bit deeper, play a little bit harder and play with more intensity,” Shymansky said. “That’s a good thing. We all feel super confident right now if it gets to a fifth set.”
Since the start of Big East play, Marquette has passed every test presented and has now won 10 straight matches. But some of its toughest opponents will roll in this weekend in the form of Cincinnati and Louisville. Shymansky said Marquette will be ready to win, no matter how it gets it done.
“We’ve already lost enough this year,” Shymansky said. “Three losses are plenty. We lost those in tight moments in tight matches and now we’re winning those tight moments in tight matches. That’s how you gain that experience.”