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Marquette Volleyball Welcomes Sara Blasier As Autumn Bailey, Nele Barber, and Gabby Benda Depart

Head coach Ryan Theis is going to have his work cut out for him next season.

Autumn Bailey leaves Marquette after two of the best offensive seasons in program history.
Autumn Bailey leaves Marquette after two of the best offensive seasons in program history.

Yesterday, Marquette announced the addition of Sara Blasier, a sophomore setter transferring in from Rice University.  As a result of that announcement, a quick check of the volleyball roster revealed that sophomore outside hitters Autumn Bailey and Nele Barber as well as freshman setter Gabby Benda are no longer listed on the roster.

This morning, the MU athletic department confirmed that Bailey, Barber, and Benda are no longer with the program.  Head coach Ryan Theis had this to say in a statement:

Autumn, Gabby and Nele have elected to transfer from Marquette University to continue their collegiate volleyball careers. We are appreciative of their many accomplishments as Golden Eagles and wish them the best as they pursue future endeavors.

Bailey was the Big East's Freshman of the Year in 2013 and the conference's Player of the Year in 2014.  She leaves Marquette with the 11th most kills in program history after just two years of competition, and in 2014, Bailey set the single season record for kills with 576.  Barber wasn't nearly that prolific in her two seasons in blue and gold, but she had turned into a solid two-way player under the guidance of Theis in 2014, averaging 2.75 kills and 2.38 digs per set.  Benda split time with Mary Nilles at setter during her freshman year, starting 23 matches and averaging 7.78 assists per set, but in Big East matches, that number jumped up to 9.31/set.

Blasier played two seasons at Rice after graduating from Slinger (WI) High School.  She averaged 10.76 assists/set in her two years as an Owl, and during the 2014 campaign, she also chipped in just over one kill and 2.28 digs in each frame as well.  Her 11.07 assists per set mark led Conference USA in 2014 and helped Blasier earn all-conference Second Team honors and AVCA regional Honorable Mention honors as well.

Coach Theis had a front row seat to see Blasier play in 2014, as she recorded 37 assists and 19 digs against the Golden Eagles back in September in a 3-1 as a part of the Marquette Invitational.  Blasier was named the Most Valuable Player of the Invitational after everything was said and done.

Theis had this to say in the press release regarding his new setter:

We are really excited to add a player of Sara's caliber and experience.  I think she will fit in well and her ability to attack from the setter position makes her unique as those points can be very valuable throughout the course of a match and a season. It is nice to have a physical blocker and attacker at the net and playing balls above the net can save and score a lot of points.

At worst, Blasier will compete for time with Nilles the way that Benda did this past season.  It seems like Blasier might have an advantage on Nilles due to her ability to attack at the net.  In either situation, Marquette finds themselves in a very interesting position heading into 2015.  With the three departures, Marquette loses nearly 54% of their total attacks in the 2014 season, and that number jumps up to 75% when you add in the graduations of Lindsey Gosh and Courtney Kintzel.  Those losses leave middle hitter Meghan Niemann as MU's leading returning attacker with 1.88 kills/set.  There are only two outside hitters listed on the current roster, junior Erin Lehman and Taylor Louis, who did not play during her first season at Marquette.  In addition, Marquette has just one recruit signed to play for next fall, but luckily, Amanda Green is also an outside hitter.

(h/t @AndreiGreska)