Marquette Women’s Volleyball: Emotionally driven weekend at the Big East Championship tournament

Redshirt junior right side hitter Holly Mertens was named to the 2011 Big East All-Tournament Team. Photo by Aaron Ledesma/ aaron.ledesma@marquette.edu

It was an emotional weekend for coach Bond Shymansky and the Marquette women’s volleyball team, which swept the Seton Hall Pirates before falling to the Cincinnati Bearcats 3-2 in the semifinals of the Big East Championship tournament this past weekend.

One of the team’s goals at the beginning of the season was to win the Big East Championship, and a program-best 11-2 conference record and the chance to host the tournament at the Al McGuire Center put that goal within reach.

The Golden Eagles showed intensity and urgency the second they stepped on the court against Seton Hall. Senior outside hitter Ashley Beyer said the team knew what was at stake.

“We didn’t want to underestimate them,” Beyer said after the team’s sweep of the Seton Hall Pirates. “And we knew we were going to have to come out and bring our best intensity, because if we didn’t they definitely could have beaten us.”

Beyer and the Golden Eagles carried that same intensity into the semifinals against Cincinnati, storming out to a 2-0 lead. But Cincinnati stormed back to take the final three sets and, a day later, defeated Notre Dame to win the tournament.

The emotional defeat and tearful reaction from a handful of players showed commitment and determination, Shymansky said.

“I tell the team all the time, ‘at the end of the match you’ll get out what you put in,'” Shymansky said. “And so to see them standing there at the end of the match crying and devastated, those are legitimate emotions. And when I look at them I say, ‘that’s good. You gave everything you had so it hurts that bad.'”

Junior middle hitter Danielle Carlson said the loss continued to teach the team in the importance of each individual play, and not letting up even while winning.

“We learned a lot,” Carlson said after the loss. “Taking advantage of the moment when we have that moment. And the coaches have tried to explain to us that every contact matters, and we really realized it in the fifth game.”

A strong and emotional crowd backed the Golden Eagles in both matches. There were 2,100 fans in attendance for the two matches, with blue and gold dominating the stands for much of the weekend. The two crowds were the largest totals at the Al McGuire Center this year.

“I thought that was the best crowd we’ve had all year,” Shymansky said after the Seton Hall win. “It was really cool to watch our Marquette community, our student-athlete community and our student community. That place filled up in a hurry and it got loud. It was a great environment.”

A trip to No. 16 Northern Illinois on Saturday will complete the Golden Eagles’ regular season schedule. Shymansky said the emotional ups and downs from the weekend will serve the team well as it prepares for the Huskies and a potential NCAA Tournament berth.

“It’s OK if it stings a little bit,” Shymansky said. “Those are the memories sometimes that really fuel your fire inside and help you to get self-motivated. Because you can see our team out there. When they’re motivated they can beat anybody.”