Marquette Wire

Volleyball gets long-awaited fresh start this weekend in Iowa

The Golden Eagles will take on two 2014 NCAA Tournament teams this weekend

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Junior libero Lauren Houg will look to hold down the back line for the new-look Golden Eagles in 2015. (Photo: Valeria Cardenas)

Junior libero Lauren Houg will look to hold down the back line for the new-look Golden Eagles in 2015. (Photo: Valeria Cardenas)

Junior libero Lauren Houg will look to hold down the back line for the new-look Golden Eagles in 2015. (Photo: Valeria Cardenas)

Andrew Goldstein, andrew.goldstein@mu.edu

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The women’s volleyball team will finally take to the court this weekend to erase the memory of a turbulent nine months for the program.

Following a semifinal exit on their home court in the 2014 BIG EAST Championship, the Golden Eagles moved on to the NCAA Tournament, where they gave away a 2-0 lead and lost the match 3-2 to an inferior Illinois State team.

To add salt to the wound, four players from the 2014 squad — Gabby Benda, Nele Barber, Jackie Kocken and Autumn Bailey — transferred to other schools over the offseason. The Golden Eagles also lost outside hitter Lindsey Gosh and middle hitter Courtney Kintzel to graduation.

Bailey’s departure will prove particularly painful for the gold and blue; the BIG EAST Player of the Year accounted for over a third of all Marquette’s kills last year.

It’s safe to assume that the team is eager to take to the court this weekend at the Cyclone Invitational in Ames, Iowa to begin the 2015 season. A solid showing this weekend could go a long way toward getting the program back on track.

In order to do so, the Golden Eagles will have to confront some difficult competition. Marquette will take on North Dakota at 4 p.m. on Friday, then face Dayton at 11:30 a.m. and host school Iowa State at 6 p.m. on Saturday.

Both Dayton and Iowa State made the NCAA Tournament last year, while North Dakota racked up an impressive 26-9 overall record with a 13-3 conference mark, good for second in the Big Sky Conference.

This particular Marquette team, under second-year head coach Ryan Theis, will look noticeably different from last year’s squad. With the departure of six players, Marquette will need substantial contributions from former role players and five newcomers this year.

Two new transfers — outside hitter Joy Miley (Long Beach State) and setter Sarah Blasier (Rice) — will don the blue and gold for the first time this year. They’ll be joined by freshman outside hitter Amanda Green and a pair of defensive specialists: Riley Burchett and Abby Julian.

Although technically not a new player, it’s also worth mentioning that redshirt freshman Taylor Louis will potentially see the court for the first time this weekend after sitting out all of last year. The 6-foot-2 outside hitter came to Marquette after setting the Niles North High School record for most total kills, and she showed serious potential in the spring exhibition season with a 15-kill performance against Northwestern. Louis may have to shoulder a significant amount of the offensive load early for a Marquette team that has lost three of their top five scorers from last year.

Senior Meghan Niemann, a unanimous preseason All-BIG East selection, and junior Teal Schnurr will hold down the middle hitter positions, while juniors Ellen Hays and Lauren Houg will defend the back end of the court.

The Golden Eagles were picked to finish second in the BIG EAST Preseason Coaches’ Poll, though it will take significant contributions from new players to reach that rank.

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