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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Volleyball’s pattern of visiting families strengthens team bonds

Photo by Katie Craig
Head coach Ryan Theis has built his team’s schedule around visiting his players’ families.

A lot of college coaches recruit to pull players away from their homes.

Volleyball head coach Ryan Theis goes on recruiting trips and emphasizes bringing them back.

Theis makes it a mission to visit the hometown of every player on his team sometime during their Marquette careers, either for a game or a team bonding trip.

“It’s something we talk about in recruiting as an experience for our team, as an experience for them,” Theis said. “We pride ourselves on creating an experience and moments for our players that they’ll remember forever, and we think that’s a good one.”

Theis picked up the tradition from Florida head coach Mary Wise during his days as an assistant coach of the Gators.

When he became head coach at Ohio, he continued the tradition himself and later carried it over to Marquette, where he’s been doing it for the past 10 years.

“We talk about our family atmosphere and our culture and it starts with a lot of players. The dynamic of our team is similar to that of home which is everybody can have fun, everybody likes to smile, everybody likes to laugh,” Theis said. “In a lot of the cases, they have a really reasonable parent that makes reasonable decisions and looks out for the good of everybody, which is the role I try to play on our team.”

Last year, the team visited Madison native Ella Foti’s house before its match at Wisconsin and had a pre-match meal with her family. They also went to Grand Rapids, Michigan to see Jenna Reitsma’s family last spring, so her grandfather could watch her play collegiate volleyball for the first time.

They went to former setter Caroline Dragani’s house for Thanksgiving two years ago and went to Morgan Daugherty’s last Thanksgiving. Later this year, they will go to Adrianna Studer’s house. The examples are endless.

Theis doesn’t have a 100% success rate in getting to every player’s hometown due to uncontrollable circumstances, but he is very close to it. In total, the team has been to or plans to visit the families of 14 of the current 15 players on the roster.

Theis even scheduled Marquette’s European foreign trip to go visit Anastasija Svetnik’s family in Belarus. The plan fell through due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but they still met Svetnik’s parents in Poland.

In the second week of the season, Marquette went to Lawrence, Kansas for a home-and-home series. On their way, they stopped in Kansas City for the sole purpose of meeting senior middle blocker Carsen Murray’s family.

“It was cool to get to show them the city from my point of view and take them to a couple of my favorite restaurants and then let them walk around a little bit and get a taste of my life back home,” Murray said. “They were just happy that people got to visit, and Kansas is far from where I live, but it was still cool to be able to be somewhere so familiar, and then get to share that with everybody.”


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Theis mentioned it to Murray while she was on her official visit with Marquette and once Murray was on campus as a first-year, he called Kansas head coach Ray Bechard to set up the home-and-home series.

A month before going to Kansas City, everyone went to junior middle blocker Hattie Bray’s farm in Wautoma, Wisconsin on a preseason retreat.

There, they had a cookout, played cornhole, sat in tractors and grew closer together as a unit.

“It just gives you a glimpse inside of their life and you get a little closer because you get to see where they’re raised and why they are the way that they are,” Murray said. “When we all went to Hattie’s house, it was super cool to see the farm in real life and she always talks about it, so we finally got to see everything in person.”

Bray said visits like these helps the team play more cohesively.

“We know a lot about each other and knowing a lot about your families can help, especially if people are going through hard times or somebody’s having family issues,” Bray said. “Then we can help each other to move past it or work through it, and that results in us being better teammates on the court for each other.”

On the docket for the Golden Eagles are two trips this upcoming spring. One is to Burlington, Wisconsin for first-year Molly Berezowitz and junior Samantha Naber. The other is to Minnesota for junior Jadyn Garrison and sophomore Sienna Ifill.

Murray said the trips are a huge part of what sets Theis apart from other Division I volleyball coaches.

“A lot of programs prioritize just playing the best of the best, but don’t really think about the experience for players. Ryan (Theis) wants us to play good teams and also have a good experience and try and see new things,” Murray said. “It just goes to show how much he really cares about us getting the most out of playing college volleyball, besides just the volleyball.”

This article was written by Jack Albright. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter/X @JackAlbrightMU.

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About the Contributors
Jack Albright
Jack Albright, Executive Sports Editor
Jack Albright is a sophomore from Charlton, Massachusetts studying journalism. He is the Executive Sports Editor of the Marquette Wire for the 2023-24 school year. In his free time, Jack likes to hang out with friends and watch Formula 1. He is excited to write fun stories about all things Marquette athletics and oversee new types of digital content.
Katie Craig
Katie Craig, Staff Photographer
Katie is a Staff Photographer at the Wire. She is a first-year from Lakeville, MN studying digital media and minoring in advertising. In her free time, Katie enjoys photography and hanging out with her friends. This year Katie is looking forward to getting to know more people and improving her photography skills.

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