MUVB begins spring season this weekend

Golden Eagles to face four Big Ten teams

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MUVB begins spring season this weekend

Photo by Ben Erickson/benjamin.a.erickson@marquette.edu

Photo by Ben Erickson/benjamin.a.erickson@marquette.edu

Photo by Ben Erickson/benjamin.a.erickson@marquette.edu

Photo by Ben Erickson/benjamin.a.erickson@marquette.edu

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The court in the Al McGuire Center is still getting some use after basketball season thanks to the start of volleyball’s spring season. Marquette will try to defend its home court on Saturday against the Northwestern Wildcats in the first of four spring games.

“This spring, we need to continue where we left off in the fall,” said Marquette middle hitter Jenna Rosenthal in an email. “All of our hard work throughout the winter will be paying off now.”

Informality characterizes spring play, where there is no centralized set of scoring rules. Teams can play a five-set match, a three-set match or some other variation of regulation volleyball. The rules are so relaxed that Theis is not entirely sure what kind of scoring rules the Northwestern match will use.

“We can tell the refs what we’re going to do,” Theis said. “It’s basically whatever the coaches decide together. This Saturday we’re probably going to keep it to three games, maybe to 25 (points) based on fatigue levels. I emailed (the Northwestern coach) about that yesterday.”

The Golden Eagles are looking to follow up on a successful regular season. Theis’ squad went 22-12 and won five games against teams that made the NCAA Tournament. That résumé was good enough to get Marquette an at-large bid to the tournament, where they scored an opening round victory over Northern Iowa before getting swept by Minnesota.

Spring volleyball has no direct impact on a team’s standing during the regular season. It still serves an important purpose, though; athletes that have not seen game action all offseason get a chance to play.

“We are excited to compete against another team instead of our own practice players,” Rosenthal said. “I don’t think any of us wanted our season to end, so we will all be looking forward to our spring schedule.”

Marquette will have the chance to take a look at two redshirts: outside hitter Amanda Green and defensive specialist Abby Julian. Green is of particular interest, since she was the teammate of starting outside hitter Taylor Louis at Niles North High School in Skokie, Illinois, and a highly regarded recruit.

Nobody is expecting Green to match the incredible output of kills that Louis amassed this season, but it is imperative that she provides some balance on offense. Besides Louis, no Marquette player averaged more than 2.25 kills per game.

The back row is more stable entering next season, but is unstable long term. Marquette’s team leaders in digs, defensive specialist Ellen Hays and libero Lauren Houg, are both entering their senior season. Starting setter Sara Blasier will also be a senior in the fall.

Marquette’s back row players are not the only ones entering their final campaigns. Middle hitter Meghan Niemann, who earned first team all-BIG EAST honors last year, only has one more year left at Marquette. The same is true for fellow middle hitter Teal Schnurr and outside hitter Joy Miley. All told, the Golden Eagles will have six graduating seniors at the end of the 2016 campaign.

Confidence in their seniors may explain why the Golden Eagles put together one of the most ambitious spring schedules in program history. All four of their opponents come from the Big Ten conference, which sent nine of its 14 teams to the NCAA Tournament. After Northwestern, Marquette will match up against the University of Illinois in Chicago, followed by a pair of matches against the Wisconsin Badgers: one in Madison and one in Milwaukee. Both Illinois and Wisconsin made the Sweet 16 last year.

“We just like to play strong competition,” Theis said. “We’ll get to see, most importantly, opponents who can do multiple things. If you play an outside hitter who can only hit the middle of the court, you learn how to defend the middle of the court. If you play an outside hitter who can hit cross, hit line, hit the middle of the court, you’re getting better because you’re working on defending those things.”

Opening serve for the game against Northwestern will be at 4:30 p.m. There will be no television coverage of the game, but students get free admission.

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