Schoessow fills unusual role for No. 10 Marquette


Photo by Elena Fiegen

Katie Schoessow goes to hit a ball during warmups before Marquette’ sweep over Saint Louis University Saturday morning.

From the time she was in sixth grade, sophomore Katie Schoessow said she knew she wanted to don the blue and gold.

“Marquette’s always been my dream school,” Schoessow said.

Schoessow was one of the earliest commitments in the country in the 2018 class, announcing her choice of Marquette as a high school sophomore. 

Once head coach Ryan Theis saw her play at a clinic, he said he knew he wanted the Mukwonago, Wisconsin, native in his program.

“She really impressed us with her mentality, wanting to learn, some of her skills and strength at that age,” Theis said. “She really wanted to stay close to home, so for her it was kind of a dream come true.”

For the No. 10 Golden Eagles, Schoessow plays a unique role. 

Most college volleyball teams only use one defensive specialist as its libero, who remains in the game at all times in the back row, not limited by the same rotation as the rest of the squad. Marquette’s starting libero is junior Martha Konovodoff, a reigning Honorable Mention All-American.

But Schoessow is a DS who acts as a substitution in the back row every set. She normally plays for three rotations until she needs to move to the front row, when a front-row player substitutes back in for her. 

“If using a sub, we get marginally better (at some aspect). Whether it’s serve receive or middle-back defense, I’m going to use that sub to the greatest advantage I can,” Theis said. “Katie puts us in a position to be better at a position.”

The role of a defensive specialist can sometimes go unnoticed among viewers, but Schoessow said she loves her position.

“Being able to get the first touch of the ball and know that you made the first play happen (is the best),” Schoessow said. “It’s not always recognized by other people — the dig or pass is pretty much the last thing that people notice — but I think it’s pretty important.”

Schoessow said she practices positive self-talk so she can perform better.

“I tend to freak myself out when (I get in games). That happened a lot of times freshman year,” Schoessow said. “I know now that the ball is usually going to come to me and just staying relaxed really helps.”

As a player who hails from Wisconsin, the 5-foot-6 defensive specialist relished the opportunity to play against and beat the Badgers earlier this season.

“I just had to play with the mindset that a lot of people are going to come and watch,” Schoessow said. “I just have to let my nerves go and play volleyball.”

Schoessow has a special tie to the rivalry since her sister is a recent Wisconsin graduate.

“My sister was at the game, and whenever we play Madison, she always says, ‘This is the only time of the year when I’ll cheer for Marquette vs. Madison,'” Schoessow said. “So it was pretty cool.”

Theis said one of his favorite characteristics of Schoessow is her animation.

“Throughout many times at practice, she’s a bit of comic relief,” Theis said. “She’ll pursue a ball like crazy, it’ll take a funny hop and hit her in the neck, and as it’s hitting her in the neck, she’ll scream. We just all kind of chuckle.”

Off the court, Theis said he adores Schoessow’s sense of humor and free-speaking nature.

“She’s really funny. She kind of says whatever she’s thinking,” Theis said. “She lacks a little bit of a filter, which is awesome. She’s learning to be a little bit more (filtered), but we all like the part of her that isn’t.”

“I’m not afraid to say what I want to say, and sometimes I don’t even think about what I say,” Schoessow said. “My team’s really cool about understanding that’s how I am.”

Theis said she still has areas to improve even though she has made big strides in her time on campus.

While Schoessow played 48 of Marquette’s 115 sets last season, this year she’s already made an appearance in 40 of the Golden Eagles’ 46 sets.

“First-step efficiency is something we talk about with her,” Theis said. “Often times if she takes a bad first step, she ends up diving or fully extending, whereas if she had taken a better first step, she could keep on her feet.”

Since the nonconference slate wrapped up last weekend, Schoessow has her sights set on a grueling BIG EAST schedule, but said she is trying to keep a positive mindset.

“It’s a long season regardless of whether we win or lose in the preseason. Conference play and postseason is when it really knocks in,” Schoessow said. “It’s a series of ups and downs every game, so it’s not going to be the best volleyball every game. You just have to keep rolling.”

As she begins her second BIG EAST schedule at Marquette, Schoessow said she has found a home as a Golden Eagle.

“I just love how cohesive Marquette is,” Schoessow said. “I love how the whole athlete community is so close and everybody is friends with everybody. We’re able to get a chance to go to everybody’s games and support all the other athletes.”