In the second meeting of cross-town rivals in 2012, the Marquette women’s volleyball team dominated Wisconsin-Milwaukee en route to a convincing sweep (25-15, 25-11, 25-22) at the Klostche Center Tuesday night. Previously, Marquette defeated UW-Milwaukee in four sets at the Al McGuire Center on Sept. 15.
On Tuesday, senior right side hitter Holly Mertens and freshman outside hitter Erin Lehman led Marquette with 12 and 11 kills, respectively, as the team improved to 21-4. Lehman said that despite having played two matches in the previous four days, Marquette was ready for its rivals.
“We were really focused to come out and sweep them tonight,” Lehman said. “We knew that we had to play our best because they can catch us. They’re a scrappy team with some good hitters. It felt good to beat them, obviously, since it’s Milwaukee.”
Mertens agreed, saying the rivalry always adds intensity to the Marquette–UW-Milwaukee matches.
“No matter how good we are in the season, no matter how good Milwaukee is, it’s always a fight,” Mertens said. “They always come and fight, and they always bring something extra to our game. It’s always fun to play them.”
Coach Bond Shymansky wasn’t concerned about his team playing tired on Tuesday because of the energy the rivalry adds to the match.
“Every time Marquette plays Milwaukee, it’s a big deal,” Shymansky said. “Milwaukee wants to beat us so (badly). That’s what’s so important. So many of our gals played against the Milwaukee gals in high school. I knew that we had the same intensity and desire to go out and beat them.”
After seizing a 10-point advantage midway through the second set, Shymansky subbed in some players that normally don’t see much of the court. Freshmen Ellie Rauch and Mary Nilles, sophomore Jalyn Smith and junior Casey Read all played extended minutes for the Golden Eagles.
“We keep preaching to them the value that they bring to the program,” Shymansky said of his reserves. “They need to be strong every day in practice so that we can be strong as a team. When they’re able to perform in practice, they need to find a way to be rewarded and be tested.”
Perhaps the most impressive of the reserves on Tuesday was Read, who recorded a season-high four kills at outside hitter in place of sophomore Lindsey Gosh. Shymansky felt Read played like a “veteran” against Milwaukee.
“Casey Read offers something different than Lindsey Gosh in that position,” Shymansky said. “Lindsey’s left-handed; Casey’s right-handed. Lindsey will hit different angles, and Casey uses the block well. She gave us a little different look out there.”
Lehman saw Tuesday’s match as a window into the future of Marquette volleyball.
“Next year, we’re obviously going to be losing our seniors, who are a huge part of our team right now,” she said. “When we get everybody else out there and everything’s clicking, it’s so exciting to know what we could do in the future.”
With just four regular season matches remaining, the future for Marquette could include a Big East regular season championship. But before finishing the season with two huge matches at Louisville and home against Notre Dame, Marquette must take care of business against Connecticut and St. John’s at the Al this weekend.
“We absolutely have to win,” Shymansky said. “We are in a must-win situation from here on out. We’re going to need to play our best volleyball this weekend. If we want to win a Big East Championship, that championship goes through UConn and St. John’s this weekend.”
As to how to avoid thinking too far down the road, Lehman has some good ideas.
“We stay focused on Marquette volleyball,” Lehman said. “We don’t overlook any teams. We really want to stay focused and play our game. We know if we are clicking and focused on our side of the net, things should fall into place.”