Deja vu for women’s volleyball team

Freshman Catherine Mayer prepares to receive a serve

Stop me if you’ve heard this before. The Marquette women’s volleyball team impresses in the non-conference portion of its schedule before being swept in its first Big East road trip. 2009, meet 2010.

“We need to get wins,” said coach Bond Shymansky. “I think it’s a little bitter for our team because it’s the same deflating start that we had last year, where we opened up 0-2 on the road.”

Marquette opened its Big East season  losing to South Florida and Georgetown on the road. In 2009, Marquette dropped a third road game before getting its first road win, but the Golden Eagles will seek to change the script for 2010 as they travel to Pennsylvania to take on Villanova and Penn this weekend in search of their first true road victory.

Marquette (7-7, Big East 0-2) has struggled mightily away from the Al McGuire Center, posting an 0-6 record in true road matches. Shymansky is not overly worried, though, noting four of those losses came at the hands of quality opponents.

“Up until now, we were 0-4 in road games, and those four games were against top 25 teams,” Shymansky said. “That doesn’t make us exceptionally bad or exceptionally weak, it’s the reality of where they are and where we are.

“I do think there can be that little something that ticks in the back of your subconscious and lets you know that it’s possible to lose on the road. We just have to make the possibility of losing an impossibility.”

Junior outside hitter Ciara Jones echoed those statements, noting it all comes down to confidence.

“We have to believe that we’re good at what we do and work harder than the opposing team in their home gym,” Jones said. “I’m excited and ready to go.”

The Golden Eagles have their work cut out for them in their attempt to get that first Big East win when they take on the Wildcats. Villanova (13-3, 2-0 Big East) is red-hot right now, winning 12 straight matches, including its first two conference tilts.  Even more impressively, nine of those 12 wins were straight-set victories.

“Nova presents a significant challenge at their place,” Shymansky said. “We swept them 3-0 here last year, but it was at the end of the season, and they were missing a key player.”

The Wildcats are led by junior Kim Maroon, who was named to the Big East Honor Roll this week after averaging seven kills per set last week, helping Villanova defeat St. John’s and Connecticut.

“The key will be having confidence in our individual abilities as well as our team capabilities,” said senior setter Nikki Klingsporn. “I think it’s easy to doubt ourselves when we start to lose.”

To make matters more difficult, Marquette might once again be without its leading hitter junior Ashley Beyer, who is still questionable to play after suffering a shoulder injury in the Northwestern Invitational, according to Shymansky.

“We’re battling some injuries right now, but we have to find a way to persevere through those moments,” Shymasnky said. “She has a significant statistical impact, but more importantly, she’s just a six rotation player for us who provides a lot of stability.”

He also added that Beyer’s absence presents an opportunity for other players to step up on the court. That player has been freshman outside hitter Casey Read.

Read started her first collegiate game last weekend against South Florida and came close to posting a double-double, tallying eight kills and nine digs. For the Golden Eagles to have a shot at the Big East Tournament, Read will have to maintain that level of play until Beyer is once again healthy.

Despite the challenging start to the conference season, Shymasnky said he has been impressed with his team’s demeanor.

“We came in this week and practice thus far has been very spirited,” he said. “We keep teaching, they keep learning. We just have to show that competitive spirit when things get tight.”