GROVER: OK, now this team is for real


It’s the second week in a row that I’m writing about a promising team coming off a tough loss. Well, this time it’s different. That’s because the women’s volleyball team is for real. Sorry, men’s soccer, but four goals to Buffalo? Color me off the bandwagon.

So, I’m just going to throw it out there: this team is good. I was seriously impressed. And if you don’t want to take my word for it, just ride over this Reading Rainbow to a face full of truth.

They’re 9-2.  And at the match against Ohio State Sunday, well, I don’t want to say that some questionable officiating cost Marquette the game, but I guess I just did say it, didn’t I? So at a pretend 10-1 record, the team is off to a big start. And with each game, its confidence and chemistry grow.

“It can’t be any better of a start to the season,” said junior outside hitter Leslie Bielski, who set a career-high Sunday with 18 kills. “Kills” would be an understatement considering the force she hit the ball. It was more like 18 devastations.

“We have tremendous momentum going into these next few matches we’re playing,” senior defensive specialist Hailey Viola said. “We’re playing at a whole new level, somewhere we’ve never played at before, and we’re so optimistic about how we’re going to play in conference.”

Playing at a new level? Well, what is the big change for a team that went just 11-18 the previous year?  It has a lot to do with a guy I like to call “Secret Agent Coach,” Bond Shymansky. You know, to the beat of that song, “Secret Agent Man”? Look it up.  And volleyball team, if you read this, please start calling him that.

The coach in his first year is already exceeding expectations with his leadership and poise. And after the tumultuous conclusion to ex-coach Pati Rolf’s tenure, the team is back to focusing on what it needs to — volleyball. And Shymansky’s blazing determination has Marquette racking up wins left and right.

“He’s like a ball of fire that never goes out,” Bielski said.

In just a few short months, Shymansky has already done wonders with the team, and everyone is improving. Before Sunday’s loss, the team enjoyed a 3-0 weekend sweep of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Panther Invitational, defeating Western Michigan, South Dakota and those east-siders over there.

“You can see with the team that they’re buying in and believing what we’re doing and believing in each other,” Shymansky said. “It’s fun to watch.

“I think this a great start for us and we want to win them all.”

The difference between coach Rolf and coach Shymansky seems like night and day.

“He’s just more intense, that’s the best way to put it,” sophomore outside hitter and arguably most-improved player Ciara Jones said. “He expects more out of us.”

But wait, there’s more.

“He’s just so intense, but in a good way,” Viola said. “He really lets you know when you do something well, but he pushes you to be better.”

Consensus: intense. I like it. I like the passion. A little surprising for how collected he looked on the sidelines, but hey, compared to serving on her majesty’s secret service, this must be a breeze.

A caveat: next up for the Golden Eagles is No. 7 Michigan. And while the coach expects to get the win in Ann Arbor, boy, it’s going to be tough. The team has the heart of its schedule coming up, but don’t worry. This team is going to make some noise in the Big East this year.

Lastly, these girls need your support. On Sunday, I watched a group of about eight students eight-handedly psychologically dismantle Ohio State’s best player to the point where she was serving the ball 20-feet out of bounds. Good work, gentlemen.

Imagine if it were 500 students. The next home game is Oct. 2. I’ll see you there.