Volleyball split opening weekend versus BGSU, BYU

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After surging back to beat Bowling Green in four sets Friday, the Marquette women’s volleyball team fell to No. 13 BYU in a hotly contested five-setter Saturday morning. While coach Bond Shymansky was disappointed about the loss, he thought the team made huge strides in the right direction.

“We showed great progress,” Shymansky said. “We had not just flashes of brilliance, but had long strings of great play. I was pleased and impressed with our unit as a whole. We just weren’t steady enough all the way through.”

Marquette’s biggest contribution came from freshman Autumn Bailey. In the first two games of her collegiate career, the Canadian outside hitter totaled 45 kills and 30 digs. Saturday against the Cougars, she had 26 kills, the most by any Marquette player since 2007, and earned Big East Freshman of the Week.

“She was good in the first match, but she was wicked against BYU,” Shymansky said of Bailey. “She was terminating in big moments, smart with the ball, blocking well, passing in the back row. She’s a really strong contributor to our team’s success right now.”

Even with her impressive start, Bailey was frustrated that the team came up short. After losing the first set, winning the second and dropping the third, Marquette smashed the Cougars 25-14 in the fourth frame. They couldn’t keep the momentum going and dropped the fifth set 12-15.

“It’s frustrating,” Bailey said. “It’s kind of like a burning feeling that you have, because you were so close but not close enough because you didn’t get the last couple of points…we’re better than that, and we’ll be better than that.”

The team was on point offensively, hitting .290 for the match with double-digit kills from Bailey, sophomore outside hitter Erin Lehman and junior right side hitter Lindsey Gosh. Senior setter Elizabeth Koberstein chipped in 58 assists as well.

“I think we’re in a great place,” Koberstein said. “We’re playing well and finding out who we are. I think we know who we are, we just need to remember that.”

The Golden Eagles just couldn’t finish though, and Shymansky said they will need to do better as the season progresses.

“That was a ripe opportunity that we didn’t convert on,” he said. “Now we’ll get more opportunities moving forward, and hopefully, we can take advantage of those opportunities in the near future.”

The team did succeed in weathering an early storm from Bowling Green Friday and notched their first win of the year in four sets.

“You could see us start to establish our rhythm and our tempo and style of play,” Shymansky said. “Then we started fighting back. It was really good to watch our young players step up and get instantly a little older.”

Redshirt freshmen middle hitters Jackie Kocken (nine kills) and Meghan Niemann (10 kills) played a huge role in the team’s success.

“We were led in a lot of ways by our passers and our setter,” Shymansky said. “But I loved what our middles did. Meghan and Jackie were both super dynamic and next to unstoppable.”

Kocken especially got off to a great start, and according to Shymansky, opened up opportunities for the rest of the offense.

“Jackie was a huge part of the win against Bowling Green,” Shymansky said. “They had to focus in on her to try and contain her. We were able to set balls away from her to other teammates and really benefitted from that.”

Overall, the 1-1 opening weekend is a fine start to the volleyball team’s “championship season.” Even with the tough loss to BYU, Koberstein feels the team is in a great place to contend for titles down the road.

“We can beat teams like that, and we should beat teams like that,” she said. “We have a ton of opportunities ahead of us in the coming weeks. If we can get ourselves to remember that we can beat anyone if we decide to, then we’re going to be in a good spot.”