The Marquette women’s volleyball team split a pair of weekend matches at the Al McGuire Center, defeating Cincinnati Friday (25-19, 25-18, 25-23) before falling to No. 15 Louisville (25-20, 17-25, 21-25, 19-25) Sunday. The Golden Eagles fell to 18-4 and 8-1 in the Big East after Sunday’s loss.
Marquette started the weekend well by sweeping the Bearcats for the first time since 2006. Marquette had lost its last six matches against Cincinnati.
“Our team was unbelievably fired up to go out and not just play Cincinnati but beat them,” coach Bond Shymansky said. “There was definitely no such thing as a trap match here because we certainly weren’t going to overlook them and wait for Louisville to show up Sunday.”
Senior right side hitter Holly Mertens continued her solid Big East form with 18 kills. She hit .640 in the three frames. She credits her unique form for some of her success.
“It felt amazing to go out and beat Cincinnati 3-0,” Mertens said. “Since I’ve been here we haven’t beat them, and I think it’s been seven seasons since we’ve beat them, so it felt amazing.”
Mertens has stepped her game up in conference play, with double-digit kills in all nine Big East matches.
“In conference, there’s not many right side hitters that hit off of one foot,” Mertens said. “It’s something different, and they’re not used to seeing it.”
Marquette used big runs in all three sets to sink Cincinnati. The most important one came in the third set, when the Bearcats controlled the action early, but the Golden Eagles charged back to earn the sweep.
“When you’re on service, and you can start adding up points on your opponent, it does wonders for the scoreboard,” Shymansky said. “But it really does wonders for the momentum of the match. You really start feeling like you’re owning your opponent for a bit.”
Shymansky thought the win meant a lot for his program, since no current Marquette player had beaten Cincinnati before.
“Overall, great win for us to beat them 3-0,” Shymansky said. “It’s been a long time coming, and it’s about time.”
The weekend took a turn for the worse on Sunday, when Marquette dropped its first Big East match of the season to Louisville in four sets. Shymansky credited poor passing for Marquette’s struggles.
“Our passing just wasn’t good,” Shymansky said. “That was a big problem for us. Our system is so dependent on it … we have to pass the ball better.”
With a 20-14 lead in the third set, Marquette looked poised to take a 2-1 lead. But Louisville stormed back and took the set 25-21, effectively killing any momentum Marquette had left.
“The lost momentum in the third set, you could tell it just broke our stride and took the wind out of our sails,” Shymansky said. “You can’t relinquish a 20-14 lead against a team like that. They really make you pay for it.”
“We just need to clean it up a little bit,” junior libero Julie Jeziorowski said of the Louisville run. “The key thing is going to be bouncing back from errors. There would be times when we’d make an error and we’d kind of get in our own head, and it would turn into another error and then turn into an avalanche of errors.”
Jeziorowski, who had 21 digs in the loss, said it hurt, since she felt Marquette was the superior team.
“I think that our team was the better team,” Jeziorowski said. “The way we run system, the way we play. I knew we could’ve beaten them.”
Shymansky said the fact that his team was disappointed about the loss shows how much progress Marquette has made in his four seasons as coach.
“They are disappointed that they didn’t win that match,” Shymansky said. “We’re not interested in trying; we’re interested in winning. So we’ll take that disappointment and that hunger and get at it in practice this week.”