Volleyball falls to No. 3 USC, beats TCU in Marquette Challenge

Photo courtesy of Marquette Images.
Photo courtesy of Marquette Images.

If the Marquette women’s volleyball team learned one thing from this weekend’s Marquette Challenge, it was that removing just one piece from its rotation results in an incomplete performance.

Such was the case Friday, when Marquette’s most experienced hitter, junior right side Lindsey Gosh, missed the game against No. 3 Southern California with a knee injury. Marquette dropped that match in straight sets (25-16, 25-19, 25-14). When Gosh returned to the lineup for Saturday’s matchup against Texas Christian, a whole different Golden Eagles offense showed up and defeated the Horned Frogs in four sets (23-25, 25-20, 25-15, 25-16).

Coach Bond Shymansky thought his team’s bounce back was admirable and will set the tone for future success.

“It was a good comeback win for us,” he said. “We felt that we were not only coming from behind in the set count after dropping the first one, but really that comeback win after last night’s loss. I think our team did a good job of refocusing and remembering how to play the game.”

The weekend started poorly for the Golden Eagles, as USC overwhelmed the team in almost every facet of the match.

“They really took it to us in a lot of different areas,” Shymansky said. “What I wanted to see most out of our group was a little bit of fight. I thought we showed it briefly, there were glimpses and glimmers of it in the second set. But it wasn’t continuous.”

In the match, USC did something no Marquette opponent had succeeding in doing this season. The Women of Troy shut down freshman outside hitter Autumn Bailey to the tune of just eight kills (Bailey averaged 22.5 kills in her first two matches). Factoring in Gosh’s absence, it was a quiet night offensively for the home team.

“I thought Autumn Bailey had to find a way to fight back out of that,” Shymansky said. “She was trapped in a glass case of emotion out there for a little while. What are you going to do? She’s a freshman out there and this is the home opener. But I know she’s capable and she knows she’s capable.”

Communication issues between senior setter Elizabeth Koberstein and the young hitters plagued the Golden Eagles against the Trojans. Specifically, Koberstein and redshirt freshman middle hitter Megan Niemann appeared out of sync at times during the match.

“It was an off-day,” Koberstein said. “That’s going to happen and unfortunately it happened tonight. We just need to continue to work on it and get in the right mindset.”

With Gosh back in the lineup Saturday afternoon, Marquette bounced back with a convincing four set win against TCU.

“There was a much different feeling on the court than there was yesterday,” Bailey said. “It was a little bit flat yesterday and we weren’t coming together as a team. Today it was a lot different. We had better energy and a better drive to win the game.”

And win the Golden Eagles did, in part because the offense reasserted itself. Koberstein’s passing was on point, and Gosh’s return to the lineup opened things up for Bailey and sophomore outside hitter Erin Lehman. Bailey put together her third double-double in four collegiate matches (20 kills, 16 digs), Koberstein nabbed a double-double as well (55 assists, 11 digs) and Gosh and Lehman both notched double-digit kills (15 and 10, respectively).

“Gosh really provides great firepower on the right and gives us so much better balance,” Shymansky said. “We missed her last night. We can certainly utilize that balance. She toughed it out today and played through the pain. I can appreciate that and so can her teammates.”

With so many difficult opponents on the schedule (including top-ranked Penn State on Friday), bounce-back wins like TCU will likely define Marquette’s season. Koberstein says the team’s mentality in those situations will be crucial.

“We had to keep reminding ourselves to be ourselves, do what we do and focus on our side of the net,” she said. “We were able to get back in our groove and find our confidence.”