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COLUMN: Young returners have to step up for volleyball

Photo by Austin Anderson

Photo by Austin Anderson

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When the 2017 Marquette volleyball team stepped on the court for the first time last Friday against the University of Hawai’i, they had a much different look from when they last left the court a season ago.

This year’s roster debuts nine new names to the team. Some of the turnover was expected with the graduation of six players, including key contributors middle hitter Meghan Niemann, libero Lauren Houg and setter Sara Blaiser. Some of the roster turnover was unexpected; star outside hitter Taylor Louis’ transfer hit the team hard, as did the loss of right side Amanda Green and middle blocker Teal Schnurr.

All of this means younger players will have to step up sooner and more authoritatively than ever before.

Both sophomores Allie Barber and outside hitter Madeline Mosher saw time last year, but it was in limited roles. Their combined swings added up to just 71 percent of the swings that Louis took. With Louis solidly on pace to break Marquette’s kills record during the early portion of her senior year, there was never a need for Mosher or Barber to play a bigger role. Now they’ll both have to.

Barber was the No. 45 recruit in the country coming out of Cedarburg High School, and last season she demonstrated why by being named BIG EAST Co-Freshman of the Year. She has followed up her freshman campaign by leading the team in kills with 109 and notching a hitting percentage of .311, the second-best mark on the team (among players that average at least 12 attempts per match).

Barber’s early season statistics show she is now the focal point of the Marquette offense. Along with having to consistently be the go-to point-getter for Marquette, Barber will also be challenged with changing her game as opposing defenses adapt to her style of play. So far, she seems to be doing a good job of it; her 26 kills against Wichita State last weekend were a career-high.

Mosher similarly finished the year with 0.92 kills per set, barely edging out setter Sara Blasier. While Mosher was expected to take over after Louis’ departure, most of Louis’ minutes have gone to freshman Hope Werch, who has played in 24 sets as opposed to Mosher’s 10. Mosher has just as many errors – 12 – as kills on the year. Getting something from Mosher will be crucial to Marquette volleyball’s success going forward.

Finally, the efficiency of any offense depends on the setter. Marquette had the advantage of having an experienced Sara Blasier on their roster last season, who finished the season with over 1,000 sets. This season, sophomore Lauren Speckman will be entrusted with making sure the offense is running smoothly. The departure of Blasier was expected, allowing Speckman to prepare for her new role. So far, she has shown her preparedness by averaging 11.67 sets per match.

Marquette fans may recognize some names on this roster and not recognize others. However, as the season progresses, players from both groups will have to step up to return to the NCAA Tournament this November.

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