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Marquette Women’s Volleyball: Team hopes success in spring carries into the fall

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Sophomore Rachel Stier was one of several underclassmen who benefitted from time on the court this spring. Tribune File Photo.

The women’s volleyball team’s spring season came to a conclusion Saturday with a first-place finish in the silver division of the 2012 Great Lakes Center Collegiate Challenge in Aurora, Ill.

Last season, coach Bond Shymansky’s team was one set away from playing for the Big East Tournament Championship, but lost to Cincinnati. The spring season was a welcome return for a young group.

“It was great experience for us, especially the young girls who don’t have the match experience,” junior middle hitter Carol Henney said. “I think as a team we grew through competition.”

The match that taught Shymansky’s team so much was their lone loss and second match of the day. Marquette dropped a marathon of a match to Michigan State 25-19, 36-34. The second set had every person in the gym crowding around the court to catch a glimpse of the intense, back-and-forth game.

A young team could have easily crumbled under the pressure, but Marquette’s perseverance taught the coaching staff and the veteran players that the inexperienced group may be ready to turn the corner.

“The spring is more individual geared training,” said assistant coach Michaela Franklin. “Our freshmen improved not only on the court but gained confidence through repetition.”

Freshman right side Lindsey Gosh is expected to play a big role in replacing graduating seniors Ashley Beyer and Ciara Jones on the outside. Gosh spent a lot of time on the court in the spring and performed extremely well in Illinois, tallying 31 kills and only 10 hitting errors.

Gosh’s play  is a sigh of relief for a team trying to revamp its front line approach.

Blocking was the topic most discussed throughout the spring season. Shymansky said he wanted to see improvement with blocking heading into next year, a decision that will benefit the defensive specialists the most.

“I feel like it is helping Julie (Jeziorowski), Cat (Mayer) and I line up better with the hitters,” sophomore defensive specialist Rachel Stier said. “We are getting better touches because of the blocking.”

The Collegiate Challenge showed the coaching staff a great deal of improvement. Franklin said the team was blocking and digging better on Saturday.

Marquette dropped its lone set of the day in pool play against Iowa (25-18, 23-25, 15-7). The Golden Eagles then defeated Notre Dame (25-20, 25-21) and Bradley (25-19, 25-16) en route to the silver division championship and a 5-4 record in the spring season.

“There’s nothing really required of us,” Henney said. “It’s our time to relax a little bit and then hit it hard in the fall and go for that championship.”

The Golden Eagles may not have received trophies for their wins in Illinois, but it leaves the team with momentum heading into the 2012 season. For a team that suffered several heartbreaking losses in 2011, their performance this spring went a long way in helping the team move on.

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