Scrimmage sheds light on roles for 2013 season

Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics

Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics

Expectations are high for Marquette volleyball in a new conference and a new year. Although the team only lost four seniors from the 2012 team, the “Bond Squad” is dealing with a surprising amount of lineup turnover. At its open scrimmage Saturday evening, six days before the season opener at Bowling Green, team veterans blended with newcomers.

“We’re not ready yet, but you could see we’re moments away,” coach Bond Shymansky said. “The best thing about this is we get to sense the game pressure environment to shake the nerves off a little bit. You could see it early on. We were just super jittery and jumpy.”

Shymansky said he felt the team overcame their nerves and put together a solid effort. They made some mistakes, but he will work to correct them in the coming days. Senior captain and libero Julie Jeziorowski felt the team did a good job overcoming fatigue.

“Preseason is really tough and really hard, so we’re obviously tired,” Jeziorowski said. “What I saw today is that our team can push through it. We’re going to be a team that has total different identity than last year.”

That identity starts on the back line, where Jeziorowski and fellow seniors Cat Mayer and Rachel Stier, along with sophomore Ellie Rauch, form an experienced defensive core. They are joined by newcomers Lauren Houg and Nicki Barnes at the back. Jeziorowski believes the depth helped the starters improve their games.

“This is the first year that Bond has said there’s no A-side or B-side,” she said. “We’ve had competition the whole time throughout, and right now they are doing a lot for the starting players because they’re challenging us everyday.”

The lineup shifts will also focus on the team’s outside hitters. Returning sophomore Erin Lehman and freshmen Autumn Bailey and Nele Barber will see lots of time on the left side after Lindsey Gosh made the transition to the right side. The Oconomowoc native switched positions because she is a natural southpaw and the team has much more depth on the left side than in 2012.

“She’s still a go-to hitter,” Shymansky said of Gosh. “We’ll look to feed her the ball as much as we did last year. The nice part is we still have balance with some of the other hitters we have. Lindsey will always be dynamic as an attacker, as a jump server, as a defender or blocker. We have to add more to that in our six-player lineup to make sure that she’s no the only thing we’re counting on.”

Over the summer, Gosh and senior setter Elizabeth Koberstein finished second in the National Collegiate Sand Volleyball Associations Championships in Long Beach, Calif. Koberstein says the tournament furthered an already solid relationship between her and Gosh.

“Lindsey and I don’t usually have chemistry issues, so just keeping that flowing was nice,” she said. “Playing on the beach helps everybody…just touching the ball is very important to keep doing all summer.”

With all their strength on the backline and outside, Marquette’s middle hitters have no collegiate experience. Redshirt freshmen Jackie Kocken and Meghan Niemann will join forces with true freshmen Teal Schnurr and Rachel Vidourek to fill the two middle hitter rotation spots. In the scrimmage, Kocken and Niemann got most of the reps with the first team.

“They’re both redshirt freshmen, but that one year experience inside of our program is coming out,” Shymansky said. “You can see it in their abilities. Meghan’s been on a phenomenal upswing in the spring season and has really taken off as one of our best middle attackers. Jackie’s really coming along. She’s so tall, so big…when she gets it right, she gets it really right.”

Ultimately, Shymansky needs to fill those spots with the two best players available, regardless of experience. The pressure will be on from day one, and Jeziorowski expects the team to rise to the occasion.

“This is the ‘season of champions’ Bond’s saying, so if I can stick to the job that he gave me and get everyone going all together and playing as one, not as six individuals but as one group, we are going to be champions,” she said.