Volleyball bounces back in sweep of DePaul

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IMG_0101After suffering a difficult defeat at Creighton last Sunday, the Marquette women’s volleyball team blitzed DePaul Saturday. The Golden Eagles swept the Blue Demons 25-19, 25-18, 25-19 in a dominating bounce back performance.

“After Creighton, we sat down as a team and broke down why we thought we played as poorly as we did,” redshirt freshman middle hitter Meghan Niemann said. “We started really connecting and getting that competitive edge we didn’t have against Creighton.”

Marquette started fast in both of the first two sets. It jumped out to a 5-0 lead in each frame and didn’t look back. There were no lead changes or ties in sets one or two.

The third set posed a different challenge. After DePaul tied the frame at 11, neither team led by more than one point until Marquette went up 21-19. The Golden Eagles finished the sweep with 6-0 run, and fought through two DePaul timeouts in the process.

“Any time you can win in conference in three, you’ve got to do it,” assistant coach Jason Allen said. “We knew the fight that they had, so we knew they weren’t going to go away in that third set.”

Allen and co. knew all about DePaul’s fight from the Sept. 28 match that Marquette won in five sets in Chicago. Both sets won by DePaul in that match had winning scores higher than 25.

“Tonight we were really focused on finishing at the end and having that mentality to go all the way through the game,” Niemann said. “It was huge that we put a couple of points on them at the end to finish out the match.”

Marquette deployed five freshman at hitter positions, with Nele Barber and Autumn Bailey playing outside, Niemann and Teal Schnurr (who made her NCAA debut) up the middle, and Jackie Kocken, typically a middle hitter, on the right side. Barber and Bailey led the offense with 12 and 14 kills respectively and Barber was named Big East Freshman of the Week.

“I felt really confident in the competitive effort we gave all week in practice,” coach Bond Shymansky said. “I knew that if we had that kind of mentality going into the match, that being a little young wasn’t going to hurt us. I thought the young ones did well.”

Shymansky made adjustments to the rotation after Lindsey Gosh suffered a foot injury during practice that week. Gosh missed a match against USC earlier in the season with a knee injury. Shymansky said she is day-to-day.

Senior setter Elizabeth Koberstein contributed to the offense in a way she previously hadn’t in her Marquette career. In addition to her standard 36 assists, she added a career-high eight kills on nine attempts (.889).

“My coaches have been stressing that all year,” Koberstein said. “In the scouting report, we knew that they were going to commit block a lot. When I was in the front row, I knew that I would be open.”

At one point in the match, DePaul setter Colleen Smith fooled Marquette by tipping the ball down for a kill while facing away from the net. Smith and her team celebrated raucously. On the very next play, Koberstein mimicked Smith, returning the favor with an over-the-head kill of her own.

“I was pissed that she scored on it,” Koberstein said. “My coach Jackie Simpson was mad too. If she’s going to score on it, I’m going to score on it too. None of that in my gym.”

Marquette will need that kind of competitive fire, as it hosts three conference matches next weekend, including a Friday night rematch with Creighton.

“There’s no way that I can sit back and say we’ve got it figured out,” Shymansky said. “Our team will be ready to get kicked around pretty hard in practice all week to get ready for Creighton when they want to come in here and kick us around too.”