One thing you can say about Marquette volleyball in 2014 is that they'll return five of six starters. That's a little misleading, though. Last season, Bond Shymansky usually started four attackers, a setter, and a defensive specialist, and only setter Elizabeth Koberstein is gone from that group of six. Meanwhile, Julie Jeziorowski's record setting four year tenure as libero is over, and Rachel Stier and Cat Meyer also both graduated, leaving MU with only usual starter Ellie Rauch as a proven commodity on the back line.
Bolstering the defensive corps had to be a priority for first year head coach Ryan Theis, and he's made a big stride on that already. On Wednesday, Marquette announced that Ellen Hays will transfer to Marquette this summer from Toledo and be eligible immediately with three years of eligibility remaining.
Thies said in a statement that he's followed Hays' development since she was in high school in very southeastern Michigan, and he got a chance to coach against her in the MAC last season. Hays started all 31 matches for the Rockets at libero in 2013 and set a school record for digs with 568. For comparison purposes, Jeziorowski posted 559 digs last season after breaking 600 each of the two previous seasons. Hays had 20 digs in 12 of Toledo's matches, but they also had 11 matches go five sets, so that might be slightly misleading.
Rauch was playing libero for Marquette during the spring season. Given Hays' experience with the vagaries of the libero rules at the collegiate level, she might have the edge for the gold jersey this fall. Both Rauch and Hays will be picking up how Theis wants them to play on the fly here, so it remains to be seen who will end up as libero, or if it even ends up being just one of them for the whole season.
Marquette opens the 2014 season on August 30th against UC-Santa Barbara.