Marquette Women’s Volleyball: Execution, on-court energy will key to victory

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Sophomore libero Julie Jeziorowski should surpass the 600 dig mark on the season in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Friday against Western Kentucky. Photo by Aaron Ledesma/aaron.ledesma@marquette.edu

Members of the Marquette women’s volleyball team (23-10) pointed to execution and on-court energy as the key ingredients needed to concoct a historic victory over Sun Belt Conference champion Western Kentucky (31-3) in Friday’s first round match-up in the NCAA Tournament in Champaign, Ill.

“We have to have high energy,” senior outside hitter Ashley Beyer said. “When we play together we’re ridiculous, and we know we have come out with strong energy and really play our best.”

Marquette’s opponent — second in Division I with 31 wins — is a unit Golden Eagles coach Bond Shymansky described as “tough, gritty and competitive.”

“They’re (Western Kentucky) a really high energy team (as well), so if we come out flat, they’ll outplay us,” Beyer said. “We have to play pin to pin.”

Shymansky said high energy from his players will be critical for containing the No. 24 Hilltoppers’ talented players, who he said could “take over a match at times.”

Junior all-conference outside hitter Jordyn Skinner has recorded 20 double-doubles this season — all 20 in kills and digs. She had 13 kills and 17 digs in the Sun Belt Conference Championship game against Middle Tennessee State.

The Golden Eagles have played Middle Tennessee twice, with each team winning its home match. Middle Tennessee is one of three opponents shared by Marquette and Western Kentucky, who beat Middle Tennessee 3-1 (25-22, 12-25, 25-18, 25-18) on a neutral court earlier this year.

Both Marquette and Western Kentucky beat Villanova and lost to Cincinnati.

“(The Hilltoppers) are battle-tested and senior-laden,” Shymansky said. “No opponent, match, point or big moment is ever going to scare them.”

Marquette, however, has experienced some trouble this season handling the big moment, coming out nervous and lacking execution, especially in its passing game.

Beyer attributed those efforts to a lack of focus, saying the team undervalued its opponents.

“We under-looked those teams, but this time we know Western Kentucky is going to be good and (potential second-round matchup) Illinois is going to be good. We just won’t under-look those teams this time,” Beyer said.

Sophomore libero Julie Jeziorowski is confident this time can be different.

“It’s about working together,” she said. “When it’s the passing group, not just an individual at a time, it’s easier to get back on our feet and get it going.”

Jeziorowski is likely to go over 600 digs for the season in Friday’s match — she enters the match with 598 and averages 18.12 per match — adding to her Marquette record.

“This is everything I’ve ever wanted,” she said. “Making the NCAA Tournament is really just a dream come true, but it’ll be great to win the first round.”

Jeziorowski said Shymansky has kept the team motivated through a series of drills to help his players envision what it would be like to win.

Wednesday, according to Jeziorowski, Shymansky had the team practice celebrating after winning the last point, a drill that had the team “confused” at first.

“We were looking at him really weird,” she said. “But he kept saying that we were going to win and that we could do it. He just put that image in our head going forward.”

Shymanksy is confident in his team.

“We’ve seen this year how good we can be when we do things the right way,” Shymansky said. “Anything can happen (in the NCAA Tournament), and everything usually does.”

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