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Toughest match-up yet for volleyball

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Redshirt freshman middle blocker Holly Mertens (7) and the Golden Eagles got back on track with their first Big East victory over Rutgers Sunday. Two big matches against Connecticut and St. John’s are up next.

Redshirt freshman middle blocker Holly Mertens (7) and the Golden Eagles got back on track with their first Big East victory over Rutgers Sunday. Two big matches against Connecticut and St. John’s are up next.

The Marquette women’s volleyball team looks to start a winning streak in the Big East as it travels to Connecticut and New York to face the Huskies and St. John’s this weekend.

“We expect to go up there and fight hard and come away with two wins on the road,” redshirt freshman Holly Mertens said. “It was good to get that first conference win, and we’re just ready to get some more under our belts.”

The Golden Eagles are coming off an impressive three-set victory against Rutgers, their first Big East victory of the season.

“Even though our team is 1-3 in conference play, our team has a really positive attitude about what we’re capable of doing,” coach Bond Shymansky said. “I said, ‘would you guys take 11-3 in conference?’ and of course they all said yes. Well then I told them to go out and get it; you’re going to have to do it one point at a time, just like anybody else would.

“I think our team enjoys winning and loathes losing. So we’re kind of in a good spot in the sense that we are really hungry.”

Connecticut comes into the game riding a three-match winning streak in the Big East and currently sits at 10-9 (3-1 Big East), with its only conference loss coming at the hands of Notre Dame.

“UConn is a real strong team,” Shymansky said. “They’ve competed very well at home and have built a lot of momentum within the conference over the past few years, so they’re going to be a tough opponent.”

The Huskies are led by junior Rebecca Murray, who has 191 kills on the season. The outside hitter was named to the Big East Honor Roll this week after tallying 25 kills in her team’s victories over Georgetown and South Florida.

Connecticut is not an overly intimidating team on paper, ranking just 10th in the Big East in hitting percentage with 18 percent and seventh in blocks per game with 2.33 in conference play. But Shymansky described the Huskies as the strongest conference opponent Marquette will have faced so far. They beat Marquette last year in three sets and are 2-1 against them in the past three years.

“Coach told us we should remember what the joy of winning is and that we should not fear losing,” sophomore Ciara Jones said.

The Golden Eagles will then face the back-to-back-to-back Big East regular season champions, the St. John’s Red Storm, however, come in at only 8-11 (1-2 Big East) this year. St. John’s have dropped its last two matches and has also had a game postponed due to power outages at South Florida.

Darlene Ramdin will head the attack for the Red Storm. The sophomore is third in the Big East in kills per game with four and second in points per game at five and will be the focus of the attack.

Marquette won’t do anything special to try to contain her or any other player this weekend, though.

“We don’t do anything special to prepare for anybody,” Shymansky said. “We always try to prepare with the exact same focus and discipline and routine.”

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