SEEMAN: Golden Eagles soar in Germany, Spain

To the average American sports fan, it wouldn’t seem like there are many options for collegiate volleyball players looking to stay involved in the sport.

Even to me, a person who’s (kind of) paid for (sort of) knowing about sports, the volleyball career path looked shorter than a 4-year-old’s attention span. Here are the two options I could think of:

1. Coach.

2. Officiate summer rec leagues.

Turns out, though, there are leagues overseas full of professional volleyball players.

Don’t think of me as some ignoramus closed off from anything that doesn’t personally interest me. Marquette’s coach Bond Shymansky said players themselves don’t even see professional volleyball as a realistic option until they’re in their last semester of school and “realize they’ve lost something that they really love.”

Not even aspiring volleyball coach and former Marquette setter Nikki Klingsporn knew where volleyball could take her.

But in a two-week whirlwind earlier this month, Shymansky called Klingsporn at home to gauge her interest in playing abroad. Soon after, she was on the banks of the Rhine River in Germany practicing with VC Wiesbaden, a squad with an 8-3 record and fifth place in Germany’s top volleyball league.

And Klingsporn isn’t the only 2010 Golden Eagle to play for pay in Europe.

Middle hitter Rabbecka Gonyo and her face-shattering spiking ability set up camp not far from the Mediterranean coast with Club Atletico Voleibol Murcia, a fourth-place team in Spain’s top league that recently won its fifth straight Queen’s Cup, the second-biggest prize in Spanish volleyball after the league championship.

As a second-semester senior myself, I can’t blame them for leaving. Getting paid to play the game they love is the most obvious perk, but both have the rare opportunity to see new places and experience a lifestyle completely separate from anything American.

And if you couldn’t tell, yes, I’m jealous.

I can’t be mad, though; they did everything they could to earn the opportunity.

They put together sparkling resumes at Marquette, and it was only a matter of time before the professional volleyball community came calling.

Gonyo’s meteoric hitting helped her finish second in the nation in hitting percentage at 42.9, the best mark in Marquette history. She also ranks 10th and second in school history in kills and blocks, respectively.

And when Gonyo’s grenade-like spikes detonated overhead, Klingsporn often watched from below with the satisfaction of pulling the pin.

Klingsporn ranked fourth in the country in assists per set in 2010 and also finished fourth on Marquette’s all-time assists list, despite playing only two seasons for the Golden Eagles after transferring from Wisconsin. Good move.

The result of this combination — Gonyo’s gym-rattling power and Klingsporn’s surgical precision — was the best season in Marquette volleyball history.

The Golden Eagles tied with Villanova for third in the Big East. Along the way, they set school records in total wins, 23, conference wins, 11, and consecutive wins, 14.

No wonder Murcia and Wiesbaden wanted them on their teams.

There’s plenty of adjustments for each to make in their new countries, not the least of which is overcoming the language barrier and communicating through translators. Klingsporn said the offense her new club plays is much higher, referring to the height of the sets, than the fast offense Marquette runs.

Shymansky is confident the work they put in at Marquette will help them get adjusted quickly.

“They will most likely be let down by how hard they don’t have to work on a daily basis over there,” he said.

Despite the departure of two of the best players in program history, Shymansky thinks the Gonyo-Klingsporn legacy will keep Marquette near the top of the Big East standings.

“(Seeing teammates go pro) gives our current players something else to strive for. … It keeps them hungry to get better.”