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Marquette women’s volleyball: Carlson shines in Big East opener

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Dani Carlson celebrates with teammates after the team scored a point. Photo by Aaron Ledesma/aaron.ledesma@marquette.edu

A week ago, senior outside hitter Ciara Jones dominated the left side in a five-set loss (3-2) to Minnesota, tallying 24 kills and finishing with a .432 hitting percentage.

Sunday afternoon at the Al McGuire Center, Danielle Carlson took her turn in the spotlight.

The junior middle hitter tied a career-high with 15 kills and added four blocks in Marquette’s four-set win over South Florida (5-9, 1-1 Big East) to open Big East play, en route to a nomination to the Big East Honor Roll.

Senior outside hitter Ashley Beyer had a double-double with a team-high 16 kills and 18 digs while freshman setter Chelsea Heier added 53 assists. But it was Carlson who led the Golden Eagles (10-4, 1-0 Big East) with an array of well-placed kills and booming spikes off South Florida miscues.

“It doesn’t look real flashy at times, but she’s really just skilled at shot making, placing the ball correctly and, at times, just thundering it,” coach Bond Shymansky said. “So it’s nice to have her in full rhythm as we get into conference play.”

Carlson shook off a slow start by tallying nine of her 15 kills in the third and fourth sets. The junior put together a crucial stretch in the third set with a kill, a block and a kill on successive possessions to give the Golden Eagles a three-point advantage.

South Florida defenders made life difficult for Jones and Beyer, who combined to hit just .182, but Carlson’s play helped counter-act that outside pressure from the Bulls.

“I think that what’s really good about our team is if the outside swing isn’t working as well we have the right side and our middles that can take care of business,” Carlson said. “Our attack is so dynamic that it’s alright if one position isn’t totally on. We can get the other two positions going.”

Beyer said Carlson’s presence was a key factor in the win.

“It’s a relief to us outside when somebody else can handle you and help you out,” Beyer said. “When Dani gets on a roll, then they go on her, and we’re one-on-one. So it’s a relief to us and we can keep playing the way we know we can play.”

The co-captain made the transition from outside hitter to middle hitter in the offseason, filling the enormous shoes left by All-American Rabbecka Gonyo, who was third in the nation in hitting percentage a year ago. Carlson welcomed the position change and has made the transition in stride.

For those who were quick to write off the middle hitter position following Gonyo’s graduation, Carlson has turned doubters into believers. She leads the Big East in hit percentage (.394) and is second on the team with 39 blocks, including a team-high nine solo blocks.

Marquette exacted a bit of revenge with the win, as the Bulls had defeated the Golden Eagles in their last two Big East openers. Carlson said that motivation pushed her and the team to begin conference play with a tally in the win column.

“We wanted to beat USF,” she said. “We remember the last two years where we lost to them in our first Big East match, and that wasn’t going to happen again. We were determined to just get it done.”

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