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Marquette Women’s Volleyball: Carlson is the new force inside

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Junior middle hitter Danielle Carlson leads the Big East in hitting percentage (.390) . Photo by Aaron Ledesma/aaron.ledesma@marquette.edu

Junior middle hitter Danielle Carlson has always dealt with decision-making in her athletics.

After a highly successful high school career, where she was a three-time all-state player in basketball and a four-year letter winner on the varsity volleyball team, Carlson made the decision to pursue her true passion, volleyball, despite her better game on the hardwood.

As colleges began to look at her, Carlson admitted she had never heard of Marquette, the first team to contact her.

“I really didn’t look into it at first,” Carlson said of Marquette. “But then I came here, and everything seemed to fit perfectly. I’m an only child, and Marquette was a small, close-knit community, and I thought that would work for me.”

Carlson saw limited action her freshman season, admitting it took her until the end of the season to realize her role on the team. That self-realization led to her starting five of the team’s final eight contests and gave her momentum entering her sophomore season.

Shymansky pointed to one match in particular, a contest against No. 3 Stanford last season, as the turning point for Carlson as a player. She finished with just five kills and five errors, but Shymansky said Carlson made a decision to fully commit to the improvement of her game.

“What I saw in her after she got over the initial disappointment was a lot of internal drive,” Shymansky said. “She would come in and talk with us as a staff, and she would get extra reps before or after practice. I really saw a difference in her demeanor and her drive after that match, and she was a go-to player for us.”

That transformation helped Carlson finish fourth on the team in kills in 2010 and, following the graduation of setter Nikki Klingsporn and middle hitter Rabbecka Gonyo, earned her a co-captain title along with senior outside hitter Ciara Jones.

“Her personality and character are so strong,” Shymansky said. “She is a great teammate and great friend to people but is also very level-headed and has a strong set of values that she is going to encourage her teammates to do what’s right, rather than just placate them or make them feel like it’s OK to do whatever they want.”

Carlson has acted as a complement to Jones, being the calming voice behind Jones’ fiery competitiveness. After a tough start to their co-captainship, Jones said the two learned quickly to use each other as one balanced voice for the team.

“We started seeing what we needed to feed off each other,” Jones said. “And in some areas she knows better than I do, and in others I know better. And so with experience we equally come in together knowing what to do.”

Along with the co-captainship came a position change from right side to middle hitter, something Carlson was hesitant about at first.

Shymansky slid Carlson into Gonyo’s middle hitter position, in large part because of her skill set and her previous experience playing there in high school.

After a successful spring season of testing out the position, Carlson has dominated in 2011.

She leads the Big East in hit percentage (.390) and has been equally as good defensively, racking up 80 total blocks.

Carlson’s decision-making both on and off the court have made her one of the team’s go-to players, which is something she is sure to use as she leads the Golden Eagles to a potential Big East championship.

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