As is going to be the case any time there's a coaching change, there are going to be some questions about how the team will be affected. In Marquette's case heading into the season opening two matches on Saturday, the questions were pretty simple: How will the roster that Bond Shymansky built react to coaching from Ryan Theis? Who will replace Elizabeth Koberstein at setter? Who's going to play on defense with three seniors leaving the back line?
The questions were all answered with a bang as Marquette came out and blistered UC-Santa Barbara and VCU for 3-0 wins to open the Ryan Theis era 2-0. The average margin of victory was 9.8 points per set. Not once did an opponent manage to crack a hitting percentage of .100 in any of the six sets, with Marquette forcing their opponent into a negative hitting percentage in three of them.
MU opened the season with a 25-10, 25-16, 25-17 dismantling of a UCSB team that was receiving votes in the preseason AVCA poll. Mary Nilles picked up the start at setter, which wasn't surprising, while Lauren Houg started at libero, which was surprising. Autumn Bailey led the way with 12 kills while hitting .233, and Lindsey Gosh added 10 as well. It doesn't sound like a lot of kills, because it's not. The Gauchos handed MU 24 points via attack errors, including the first four points of the match, and only hit .027 by the time things were said and done. Bailey also had a team high 14 digs, while Houg had nine in her first collegiate match as libero. Nilles and freshman Gabby Benda both saw action in all three sets while combining for 30 assists, led by 17 from Nilles.
That win opened up the question: Beginner's luck? Bad match up? That answer came out as a roaring "no" when Marquette opened up a 17-6 gap to start the first set against VCU. They took the first set by a score of 25-9, and while the next two were a bit closer (25-21 & 25-18), It's hard to say that the Rams were ever in the match when Marquette was outhitting them, .354 to -.088. Bailey led the way again with 13 kills, and VCU was even worse at getting in their own way than UC-Santa Barbara was, committing 29 attack errors in the match. Houg had the lead on defense in this one, tallying a career high 13 digs. Nilles and Benda split time again, totaling 33 assists.
Up Next: It's the Rams Volleyball Classic, but it's Colorado State that it's named after, not VCU. The #18 ranked Rams defeated VCU 3-0 in the early session, and then matched the feat against UCSB in the late match in their first two matches of the season. Marquette and CSU will square off at noon Central, and the match will be broadcast via streaming on the Mountain West Network.