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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Niemann’s cerebral nature helps her set record

Photo by Austin Anderson

It seemed as if it was just any other point for Meghan Niemann. She slid over to the right side in step with setter Sara Blasier and proceeded to leap into the air. Almost simultaneously the ball met her hands and bounced back over the net — another block assist for the redshirt senior.

Niemann celebrated the point as she always does: with a big smile, high fives and some words of encouragement for her teammates. The only difference was this block assist was Niemann’s 356th, making her Marquette’s all-time block assist leader.

Niemann’s nonchalant celebration to her record-breaking block can be traced back to earlier in the week. She tied the record for block assists on Sunday against Providence. On Monday she was asked if the week leading up to Friday’s match against Georgetown would be any different knowing that history could be made. She couldn’t help but laugh.

“It is a good thing for our team,” Niemann said. “When Ryan (Theis) came here, a huge focus of his was improving our blocking. That is a huge focus of our whole team. We spend a ton of time working on it, so me breaking the record kind of shows that our team has been working really hard on it.”

Still, she has to have some natural ability that lends itself to blocking, right?

“Ryan is really good at training it, so we do a lot of work with eye sequencing, reading a setter to see where they are going to set, so we can kind of pick that up and know before it happens, so that we can be on time, ready to close the block,” she said. “Pin blockers do a great job with that because they set up where the block is and then I close to them.”

Okay, so maybe she doesn’t want to take credit for being able to break a Marquette record, but clearly something is working.

“What she does on the court not only physically, but also vocally in terms of leadership and knowing what is going on, on the other side of the net,” Theis said. “Her ability to process opponent information is very good. I think that is one of the things that makes her incredibly valuable to not only our team, but it’s one of the things that we’ll miss the most when she is gone.”

Last year Niemann graduated from Marquette with a degree from the College of Education with a focus in math. She wants to teach in Milwaukee next year, but before she gets to grading papers and leading a classroom, she is sifting through scouting reports and using her competitive spirit.

“I really like the theories behind the game, the scouting report, the knowing what someone across the net likes to do and taking that away from them. That is one of my favorite parts about volleyball is that you can game plan that,” Niemann said. “You can guess what someone is going to do before they do it. And then once you take away what they want to do, you are making them uncomfortable, and when you make them uncomfortable you have to do something different and then they are not as good.”

Her unique approach almost mimics that of a coach.

“For (the coaches) it is much more a numbers game, much more so than (the players). For them it is more about what is more likely to happen, for us it is how, why, how do we make it change that kind of thing,” Theis said. “(Niemann) has been a voice of the coaching staff both on and off the court for all three years that I have been here. She is getting the message across that we are trying to get across.”

Niemann’s work ethic also makes her a leader for her teammates.

“For example, if we run a sprint and they have 12 seconds to do it, she is going to go as hard as she can and finish in 10. She does it every time because she is running as hard as she can,” Theis said. “When we play six on six and we are starting a drill she is gutting through it. You hear her panting because middles work hard. I have tried to take her out to give her two minutes off and she doesn’t want to leave the court. She is like, ‘I’m fine.’ It is pretty clear that she is willing to work hard and thinks it is necessary to be successful.”

“Something I like to agree with a lot is lead by example, because you can only say so much,” teammate Jenna Rosenthal said. “So many pretty speeches, inflections and you ra ra, but when you see someone in the day working their butts off they can clearly love Marquette volleyball as much as all of us do and they make sacrifices for it and we know that this is their number one priority right now. When you see other people doing that, you realize, ‘Hey this is what it  is going to take in order to be a great volleyball team and be a great volleyball player.'”

Monday, Niemann was walking around the Al McGuire center barefoot. Perhaps it showed how relaxed she was about the upcoming week, or perhaps it showed how comfortable she has become at Marquette. In her five years on campus she has seen a lot: she has had eight different coaches and was part of school’s first volleyball BIG EAST championship. Now she has her very own school record, too.

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