Klingsporn returns to the Al on the opposite bench

Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.
Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.

Most Marquette sports teams, with the probable exceptions of men’s and women’s basketball, would likely identify Wisconsin-Milwaukee as their archrivals. In the case of Marquette’s women’s volleyball team, the crosstown showdown, which resumes Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Al McGuire Center, comes with a built-in twist.

In 2009 and 2010, Oakdale, Minn. native Nikki Klingsporn anchored Marquette’s offense as its starting setter. After transferring from Wisconsin-Madison for her junior season, Klingsporn put together two incredible seasons and sits fourth all-time on Marquette’s career assist list. As a player and an assistant coach in 2011, she played a vital role in taking the program to the next level.

Now, Klingsporn plays a different role in the rivalry. Since 2012, she has served as an assistant coach on the UWM bench. While that creates a certain amount of awkwardness on both side, Klingsporn says she loves remaining a part of the ongoing series.

“It’s always fun to play against my alma mater in their home gym,” she said.  “They are good competition for us to play and it’s exciting to be a part of it on the sidelines now.”

Klingsporn’s college coach Bond Shymansky has been murder for UWM since arriving at Marquette in 2009. In four seasons, Shymansky’s squads are 5-0 against the Panthers. Klingsporn was a part of three of those wins for Marquette. Shymansky loves the matchup because of the mutual regard between the two teams.

“All of our players know their players and a lot of them grew up playing against each other,” he said. “There’s always a good grudge match there and a lot of healthy respect.”

Shymansky fully appreciates the important work Klingsporn put in to get his program to where it is today.

“I’m certainly really proud of her,” Shymansky said. “There’s no getting around that. I respect what she can do as a coach … seeing the way she can communicate, relate, understand and articulate the game to younger players was really cool. That’s when I knew she would be fully capable of being a great coach someday.”

Klingsporn returned the favor, recognizing the impact Shymansky had on her career and reflecting on the growth of Marquette’s program since she moved on.

“It brings back good memories from my time there as a player,” Klingsporn said. “It’s really cool for me to see the seniors, who were freshmen when I was a senior, really grow as people and players.  Playing against Bond is inspiring because he has been such an influential person in both my playing and coaching career.”

Regardless of how he feels about Klingsporn, Shymansky’s competitive spirit drives his desire to defeat his former colleague.

“I appreciate and respect all of my former players but I still want to beat them at anything,” he said. “If we were playing cards, I’d want to beat them. If we were playing a game of HORSE with a basketball, I’d want to beat them. That’s no different when it comes to our job.”

As for Sunday’s match, both teams are motivated to grab another victory in the rivalry. For UWM, a win would be their first over Marquette since 2007.

“Marquette is a great team, and it would be special to win against any great team,” Klingsporn said. “With this being our last tournament of preseason, it would be good to gain some more confidence and momentum into conference play.”

Marquette junior outside hitter Lindsey Gosh said her team wants to sweep the Panthers just like they did in the second meeting last season.

“Milwaukee is our huge rival,” Gosh said. “It doesn’t matter that Nikki is on the other side as an assistant coach. We just have to do our thing.”

Shymansky agreed with Gosh and is looking forward to getting another one past his former charge.

“I’m sure it will be a great crowd, great atmosphere and a really good opportunity for us to go out and beat our crosstown rival,” he said.