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Marquette Women’s Volleyball: Program Trends Upward

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Chelsea Heier, #2, serves the ball. Photo by Aaron Ledesma/aaron.ledesma@marquette.edu

Junior middle hitter Danielle Carlson described the season as “memorable.”

Freshman setter Chelsea Heier said she was “proud,” and senior outside hitter Ciara Jones felt the team was “blessed.”

Whatever the adjective, this season marks Marquette’s most successful in program history — largely due to unproven players stepping up.

The individual awards resemble a laundry list, but all members agree the most important achievement was securing the program’s first bid to the NCAA Tournament, where the Golden Eagles knocked out No. 24 Western Kentucky before falling to No. 3 Illinois in the second round.

“It’s an accomplishment to get to the NCAA Tournament, but to get a win there is even more,” Carlson said. “Proving that we belonged there was something we really wanted to do.”

Carlson, who evolved from a defensive player to an attacking force, was selected to the All-Big East First Team and represents one of many players who made Marquette a Big East contender.

“(Carlson) was a go-to hitter for us,” regional coach of the year Bond Shymansky said. “It was neat for her … to get to the point where she can demand the ball.”

However, the largest question mark coming into the season, and eventually the team’s most consistent performance, was at setter.

With only one setter on the roster, a walk-on freshman from California, no one knew what Marquette would have in Heier.

Heier was named the Big East Conference and the American Volleyball Coaches Association’s Northeastern Regional Freshman of the Year and named to the first team in the region as well.

“What an unbelievable breakout year for her,” Shymansky said.

Heier said her teammates made her transition from newbie to on-court leader easy and fun. Specifically she pointed to the senior leadership of outside hitters Ciara Jones and Ashley Beyer.

“(The seniors) are steady players throughout the game and obviously that helped us on the court,” Heier said. “But off the court, they’ve been through a lot in the program and they’re good to go to and clear your head.”

With surprises in the form of Heier, Carlson and sophomore libero Julie Jeziorowski — who set a program single-season digs record (638) — stepping up around the court, it could be easy to forget the consistent success of the Golden Eagles’ attacking outside tandem of Jones and Beyer.

Entering the season Shymansky knew he had experience on the outside, but even the coach did not know what the team would get from Jones this year.

“I think Jones’ success is really her own,” Shymansky said. “Her biggest transformation came between the ears, not between the pins. She’s grown up as a person and as a competitor.”

Jones, who joined Heier on the regional first-team and first team all-conference, attributed her success to her teammates, the growth of her setter and her coach.

But even she admitted getting recognized for her hard work was exciting, describing it as a real “honor.”

Jones and Beyer, an All-Big East second team selection, leave a Marquette program on the rise after back-to-back top three Big East finishes and after two close sets against perennial powerhouse Illinois in the second round.

For Jones, this is exactly the legacy she aimed to leave.

“All these firsts just set up what the girls should believe in for seasons to come,” she said. “It’s more shocking now, but when they do it (in years to come) it won’t be shocking. That’s what I wanted to leave with: just to raise the expectations of Marquette volleyball.”

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