This season, Creighton played the role of Marquette’s volleyball nemesis in the Big East.
However, Marquette’s main enemy throughout Bond Shymansky’s five years as coach has undoubtedly been the Louisville Cardinals, who left the conference for the American Athletic Conference this summer. Imagine the Golden Eagles’ delight then, when Louisville appeared next to their name during Sunday’s NCAA selection show to set up a showdown Friday in Champaign, Ill.
“We’re excited to play them,” Marquette coach Bond Shymansky said. “That’s a team that we were hungry to play. We were hoping to get them on the schedule this year. I can’t imagine better motivation for our group than to prepare to play Louisville in the first round of the NCAAs.”
First and foremost, however, the team was extremely disappointed to not get one of the 16 national seeds. Each seed hosts its first two matches of the tournament. Shymansky and his players felt their No. 8 RPI would be enough to put them in the top quarter of the 64-team field.
“The selection committee has shown in the past 10 years that if you have a top-10 RPI, you get a seed,” Shymansky said. “I don’t know why we were omitted from that rule. I’m not entitled to an explanation, but I think our team is.”
Senior setter Elizabeth Koberstein also said her initial feeling was one of frustration over the lack of seed.
“I think we were all a little mad that we didn’t have the number next to our name,” Koberstein said.
However, Koberstein changed her tone to one of excitement when she started discussing the opportunity to take on the Cardinals, who defeated Marquette three times in 2012.
“When we saw Louisville, it was like our blood’s already boiling,” she said. “We know that team. We want to beat them. We want to beat them bad.”
In its first year outside of the Big East since 2005, Louisville went 25-7 and a stellar 18-0 in the AAC, good for the regular season championship. The Cardinals also kept their momentum going in the conference tournament, claiming the AAC’s automatic bid. They bring a 13-match winning streak into Friday’s showdown with Marquette.
Senior outside hitter Emily Juhl provides the Cardinals with steady offense, averaging 3.07 kills per set. Freshman outside hitter Maya McClendon leads the team with .313 kills per set and was named AAC Freshman of the Year. Like Marquette, Louisville boasts stellar seniors at libero and setter. Libero Caitlin Welch was named AAC Libero of the Year. Setter Hannah Kvitle caused problems for Marquette for most of her career, but was supplanted this year by sophomore Katie George.
All year long, Shymansky’s squad called 2013 “the season of champions,” and the team achieved that goal twice already. However, a win over former Big East rival Louisville would be the icing on the cake of a fantastic season.
“I don’t want to put any doubt in anyone’s mind that because the Big East is different is why we won,” senior liberio Julie Jeziorowski said. “I want people to know that we won because we are a better team and we won because we worked hard to win, not because the conference changed.”