Women’s volleyball already eyeing next season

After a promising 9-1 start to the season, the Marquette women’s volleyball team struggled to adjust to Big East play and experienced a bittersweet 17-12 campaign.

It fell short of its lofty goals of winning 20 matches and making the Big East tournament but took a step in the right direction nonetheless, finishing in a tie for eighth place in the Big East with a 6-8 mark.

First-year coach Bond Shymansky took over a program in disarray — having lost its coach midway through last season and two players in the offseason — and steered it back on course.

“I thought we got better as we went, but the challenges got tougher as we went also,” Shymansky said. “We didn’t know early on in the season how to capitalize on the big moments like we needed to, and as a young team those are some of the things you’re going to suffer.”

The team returned only five players from last year’s squad and hit a rough patch when it had to adjust to conference play.

“I think our young players were just trying to keep their head above water for a while so it took them a while to get the right focus,” Shymansky said. “But once we did I think we started to show the type of team we can be and should be, and so that’s what we’ll have to build on for next year.”

Sophomore Ashley Beyer is one of those young players who struggled with adjusting to Division I volleyball early-on, having transferred from a community college. But once she got going, she was a force to be reckoned with.

Beyer led the team in kills with 373 and finished in a tie for second in the Big East with 206 kills during conference play.

“Ashley Beyer is certainly a huge impact player for us,” Shymansky said. “As the other teammates started getting a little bit stronger the load wasn’t quite so heavy on her, but we’re going to expect her to keep moving forward and pick up a bigger load and everybody pick it up around her as well.”

Another impact player was junior Nikki Klingsporn. Marquette’s setter played in every set of every match, dishing out 1,203 assists, the eighth most in a single season in school history.

Shymansky said Klingsporn did a great job holding the team steady as its leader and captain, getting more creative as the season progressed.

The 2010 season is already looking to be quite promising and the bar will be raised even higher.

“I think there’s a lot of good things to come for us,” Shymansky said. “We continue to talk about how a lot of those top teams are going to lose their best players but we return almost everybody. We need to make that pay off, and we need to make them pay when we come around to next year.”

The players sense the opportunities for next season as well.

“I’m really excited for next year, Beyer said. “Having as strong a team as we did this year, it’s going to be a great outcome next year.”

Marquette made a statement with its strong play this year and it’s not done yet.

“We wanted to show the Marquette community we are here to play well and we will continue to play well in the years to come,” freshman Danielle Carlson said.