We’ve had some recurring discussions about Marquette men’s basketball retiring jersey numbers in the past when we’ve done a mailbag. As things currently stand, men’s hoops has retired nine of the possible 36 numbers that the NCAA allows basketball players to wear. That’s a full 25%! If they have a full scholarship roster of 13, then they’re using (essentially) half of the available numbers! Retiring more — #22 for Jim Chones and Jerel McNeal! #34 for Tony Smith, Jim McIlvaine, and Travis Diener! #32 for Lazar Hayward and Jae Crowder! #0 for Markus Howard! — means the squad will rapidly start to run out of possible numbers to wear.
So, until the NCAA changes the rules or Marquette backtracks on “numbers are permanently retired” to the position of “jerseys are honored,” then we’re not going to see any retirement ceremonies any time soon.
However, Marquette has teams that are not governed by absurd rules caused by referees struggling to signal fouls with one hand. These teams can have their players wearing any number they want to wear, and so everything from 0 to 99 is available. Those teams can go ahead and retire any darn number that they like, and quite honestly: They don’t have any retired numbers at all.
So, let’s see if we can identify some candidates, shall we?
We shall start with volleyball.
The big question for Marquette volleyball is whether or not to consider anyone from before the moment when Bond Shymansky was hired as head coach. Shymansky’s hiring began the program ascent that is still underway under current head coach Ryan Theis. The Golden Eagles have appeared in each of the last nine NCAA tournaments, and yes, for the record, those are the only nine tournaments that MU has ever appeared in. Shymansky didn’t actually get Marquette to an NCAA tournament until his third season in charge, but the players he had at the start of his run built the platform for Marquette to get to where they are now. All due respect to everyone who came before then — and there are some people with some program records out there that might deserve it — but Shymansky and Theis have accounted for 62% of Marquette’s Division 1 victories in program history. They’ve done it in just 11 seasons against 23 previous D1 seasons before Shymansky was hired.
The point is that the glory days of Marquette volleyball are the last decade or so, and while we celebrate every former MU player, I think we can’t honor anyone with a retired jersey if they played for teams that weren’t particularly great. That means that we’ll mention Theresa Coughlin (2002-05) and Kimberly Todd (2004-07) for racking up over 1,700 kills each, but pass on retiring their numbers. Same for Liz Egasti, who recorded a program record 5,180 assists from 1997-2000. That also goes for Meghan Devine, who had 107 solo blocks between 1998 and 2001. That’s a program best, as well as a record that is seemingly untouchable based on stat trends in the last several years. As we’ll get into in a little bit, we’ve seen the most dominant shot blocker in program history in the past few years, and she only had 58 solo blocks. That’s not an issue of player ability, that’s an issue of the game changing tactically as well as perhaps by way of scoring changes as well.
We mentioned Kimberly Todd already, but if we bring her up, we have to mention Jamie Mueller as well. In 2006, the teammates ended up in a tie for the first Golden Eagle ever to earn AVCA All-American honors, with both Mueller and Todd getting Honorable Mention nods. Marquette went 16-15 overall that season with two losses to two top 15 teams after the Big East tournament finished (because scheduling was weird back in the day), and went 10-4 in conference play, which was good enough for third place. That was MU’s only top six finish in the Big East before Shymansky was hired.
You get the idea here. Let’s move on to candidates within the context of the Shymansky-Theis tenure.
Ashley Beyer, Rabbecka Gonyo, and Nikki Klingsporn
This trio kicked of a 10 year run of Marquette getting at least one player to All-American honors, with all three getting the nod in 2010. Beyer is currently #5 on MU’s all-time kills list, racking up 1,214 in just three seasons after her junior college transfer, and she was #4 when her career wrapped up. She’s also #10 all time in career service aces after finishing her career at #9. She was Second Team All-Big East in 2009 and 2011, with a First Team honor sandwiched in the middle.
Gonyo was the most accurate attacker in Marquette history when her career finished up in 2010, and she’s still #5. She has the sixth most solo blocks in program history, is tied for the third most assisted blocks after tying the program record at the time, and sits fourth in total blocks with 431. That was the second best total in program history when Gonyo’s senior season was finished, so that has to count for something. She earned First Team All-Big East honors in 2010 to go along with her All-American honor.
Like Gonyo, Klingsporn is going to suffer here because she was almost immediately eclipsed in the record book. She’s currently #6 all-time in assists, but #4 and #5 both played after her. The impressive part about her sitting at #4 when she wrapped up her career is that she only played two years at Marquette after transferring from Wisconsin. Unfortunately, when we’re trying to talk about retiring a jersey number, we probably need something bigger than two outstanding years with one Second Team and one First Team All-Big East honors.
All three had a major impact on the direction of the program under Shymansky, and nearly almost immediately. Beyer might have the best case out of the three with extra credit points for getting to play on MU’s first NCAA tournament team, but she didn’t even lead that squad in kills that year.
And now we move on to our first true contender in my view.
Working in Carlson’s favor is the fact that she is one of just five Golden Eagles to ever earn multiple AVCA All-American honors, picking up Honorable Mention spots in both 2011 and 2012. She’s also the first Marquette player to ever do that, and “first player in program history to be nationally recognized twice” seems like a big deal. Carlson still holds the program record for career hitting percentage, connecting on 35.8% of her attacks in her four year career, and she registered two of the three most accurate seasons in MU history, trailing only Rabbecka Gonyo’s absolutely ridiculous 2010 where she hit .429. Carlson finished with 1,061 career kills, and while that’s not a top 10 number, she was a middle blocker/hitter, not an outside hitter, so that’s a pretty good number. Where things start to fall apart for Carlson as a contender is the fact that she is only tied for eighth in program history in assisted blocks, dead even with four year teammate Kelsey Mattai. The good news there is that Carlson was tied for sixth when she wrapped up her collegiate career in 2012, but she’s been surpassed twice since then.
Carlson holds the team record for hitting percentage in a Big East tournament match, going for .609 against Pittsburgh in 2012. That was in the semifinals, and she would lead the team in kills as MU beat South Florida in the semifinals, and then in blocks as MU fell to Louisville in the title match. She earned all-Big East First Team honors to go with her two AA Honorable Mention awards, too.
It’s tempting, but I think that getting rapidly surpassed in blocks as a middle is something that ultimately stops us from hanging up Carlson’s #8.
Okay, now we have to take this seriously. While Carlson was our first serious contender, I think Koberstein is the first candidate where we have a real argument to retire her number. The biggest hurdle to overcome here is that she was on the roster for just two seasons after transferring in from Kentucky. I’m getting that one out here in front of everything else. Just keep it in mind.
After two years as setter, Koberstein has the fourth most assists in program history. Yeah! That kind of a pace would have given her the program record if she had run it through for a full four seasons. She has the #4 and #5 best assist seasons in program history, and no one has come within 100 assists of her since her time at MU ended in 2013. After a quality debut season with the Golden Eagles in 2012, including First Team all-Big East honors and All-American Honors, she took it to a new level in 2013. Koberstein became Marquette’s first ever conference Player of the Year, winning the honor in the Big East. The team went 15-1 in league play and won the Big East tournament in the first year after The Reformation. That is still Marquette’s only conference title in volleyball, and I mean that from both a regular season and tournament perspective.
On top of that, in 2013, Koberstein became the first Marquette player to earn an AVCA All-American honor that wasn’t “only” an Honorable Mention spot. She was included on the Third Team, which gives her an argument for the best single season in program history. I don’t know if you want to give Koberstein credit for this here, but that may have been the best team in Marquette history, and they got completely hosed by the NCAA Selection Committee. Here’s the Team Sheets from Selection Sunday. Where’s Marquette? #8 in the RPI. Did they get one of the top 16 national seeds? NOOOOOOPE.
Yes, I’m still mad about it, and it has been seven years.
At the end of the day, while Koberstein’s two seasons at Marquette were incredibly great, and you can argue that they have not been matched in the six seasons since, I think that you can’t retire her #18. We’re talking about the first number retirement in program history, and it just feels weird to do that for a transfer player who only played two years at Marquette. The argument to do it anyway is absolutely there! I just think it’s probably disqualifying for the first ever retirement.
We veer from our guideposts for the previous few options here, as everyone that we’ve mentioned so far earned AVCA All-American honors in one way or another at least once in their career. Julie Jeziorowski did not. We can have a conversation about whether or not that’s disqualifying if you want, as can we talk about the fact that her best playing honor was an All-Big East Second Team award during her senior season.
Now, the catch is that the senior season in question is the 2013 season, which 1) has Marquette’s only conference title as they were double champs with both the Big East regular season and tournament titles and 2) might actually be MU’s best ever team. That seems important there, as does the fact that Jeziorowski led the team in digs that year, just like she did during the previous three campaigns.
In fact, Jeziorowski’s ability to put the ball back in the air after it came across the net is actually unrivaled in Marquette history. After becoming the sixth player in program history to clear the 1,000 dig plateau, she became the first to clear 2,000 digs during the 2013 season after breaking Jamie Mueller’s program record during her junior season. Six seasons later, and Jeziorowski’s record of 2,209 digs still stands. Lauren Houg fell more than 400 short, and Martha Konovodoff has one year of eligibility remaining but needs 656 digs to pass Jeziorowski. MK’s career high for a season to this point? 559, which she posted in 2018.
Jeziorowski has two of the three highest single season totals in program history (Houg’s junior year passed what was Jeziorowski’s previous program record, set in 2011) and three of the top six. Jeziorowski has a claim as the best libero/defensive specialist in Marquette history, and so there’s a claim to retiring her #6.
The question at hand is essentially thus: How long will it be before someone comes in and averages 600 digs a season in a career and just blows her record out of the water? Marquette saw three 600 dig seasons between 2011 and 2015, so it’s not like it’s completely impossible. If you want to push for retiring Julie Jeziorowski’s number, I’ll support it, but I don’t think it’s the best option for Marquette’s first ever retirement.
I almost wrote an entire article four years ago to make an argument that Marquette should immediately retire Meghan Niemann’s #7. It was pretty clear at the time that she was a major component of Marquette volleyball turning into the program that it was at the time, and the passage of time has not done much to diminish that view of her collegiate career. She was a redshirt freshman on the 2013 team that won those Big East titles, and earned her only All-American honors that season. Over the next three seasons, she became the second most accurate attacker in program history, trailing only Danielle Carlson, broke Martha Meyer’s record for assisted blocks in a career by becoming the first Golden Eagle to clear 400 in a career, and also broke Meyer’s record for total blocks in a career, becoming the first MU player with more than 450. She set a single season record for assisted blocks in 2014, too.
That’s not it, though. While she isn’t an across the board dominant player as she finished with just 1,048 career kills and thus is nowhere close to MU’s top 10 all-time, Niemann was recognized as one of the best players in the Big East for her entire stretch in college. In fact, Niemann is the first Marquette player to ever earn all-conference First Team honors for four consecutive seasons. She’s not the first to do that in multiple seasons, but she is the first to get all four seasons. That’s a unique credit to her, and that’s a major driving point for her in terms of retiring her number.
Here’s the knock on her, which is the same knock that existed four years ago: Jenna Rosenthal immediately wiped away her program records. Niemann’s senior season was Rosenthal’s sophomore campaign, and it was clear that Rosenthal was going to break her blocking records eventually. Niemann finished with 412 assisted blocks and 454 total blocks. At the time Niemann wrapped up, Rosenthal was already at 261 and 295 respectively. That’s already well over halfway to both records, and it was only a matter of time before she actually got there. When you’re looking at a player’s impressive accomplishments in the moment at the end of her career and you already know that her records are going to fall before two more seasons elapse, it kind of takes the wind out of the ol’ sails in terms of “this is far and beyond one of the best players that this program has ever seen.”
And so, if Meghan Niemann is a fantastic candidate to have her jersey retired, then the woman who eclipsed her program records for blocks has to be in consideration as well.
Rosenthal finished her four years at Marquette with 474 assisted blocks and 532 total blocks. Because I know you can do math from a minute ago, yes, those are well off from her midpoint projected marks, but hey: they are still program records. As her career continued, head coach Ryan Theis started deploying her as more of a hitter than a middle blocker, and that’s why her block numbers started to trail off a little bit.
As a result of Rosenthal getting more hitting opportunities as her career went on, she ended up finishing with what is now the 11th most kills in program history. She also took a run at Danielle Carlson’s career accuracy record, although Rosenthal (.346) ended up falling short of the top mark (.358). She has two of the top five accuracy seasons in MU history, and two of the top three assisted blocks seasons as well.
Working in Rosenthal’s favor is that her senior year culminated in Marquette’s first ever Sweet 16 appearance as well as the first two NCAA tournament games at the McGuire Center as the Golden Eagles earned a national top 16 seed for the first time in program history. Capping your career with arguably the most historic season in program history and a case for the best team in program history is definitely a good way to campaign to have your #9 retired.
If we have to find a knock against her in terms of jersey retirement status, it’s that Rosenthal was “only” First Team All-Big East for three of her four seasons. Her freshman year was the only one where she missed out. Still, even at the time, it was clear that bigger and better things were in front of her as she started to develop her game even more than just “is 6’6” and can jump really well.”
Our final candidate on the list is the star of the show for the past three seasons, and boy howdy did Allie Barber build a case to have her #10 hanging from the rafters.
Four go-rounds as a First Team all-Big East honoree, matching the standard set by Meghan Niemann. Co-Freshman of the Year in 2016. Three time (2017, 2018, 2019) AVCA All-American, the first Golden Eagle to ever receive a third honor. 2017 and 2019 Big East Player of the Year, including as a unanimous choice in 2019. Marquette’s all-time leader in kills, recording 1,871 to surpass Theresa Coughlin’s 14 year old program record of 1,733. The fourth most accurate attacker in MU history (.324 hitting percentage), trailing only three women that we have already talked about in Danielle Carlson, Jenna Rosenthal, and Meghan Niemann. Three of the six most prolific kills seasons in MU history, making her the only MU player to ever record 500 kills in a season three times and only the second (after Taylor Louis) to do it twice.
Oh, and for good measure, she was the team leader in kills on the 2018 team that was the first MU squad to 1) earn a top 16 national seed in the NCAA Tournament, 2) host NCAA matches at the McGuire Center, and 3) advance to the Sweet 16. You know what’s a good way to earn recognition as one of the best players in program history deserving of acknowledgment forever? Being a dominant offensive force on the best/most successful team in program history. That’ll really work in your favor.
Quite honestly, there’s nothing working against Barber here in her history as a player with the slight exception that she was “only” fourth on the team in kills as a freshman. When two of the women that we’ve already talked about here (Rosenthal and Niemann) are in front of you in experience and seniority, these kinds of things happen.
The big question on Barber’s #10 is essentially “How long do you think she’ll keep that kills record?” In 2019, Hope Werch was second on the team in kills, and her career best 335 in the season moved her to 830 in her career. So she’s not coming close to Barber with one year of eligibility remaining. Freshman Hannah Vanden Berg was third on the squad with 222 kills in 2019, which is three more than Barber had as a freshman. She did that while playing in “only” 109 of 122 sets, and the early production of KJ Lines before her season ending injury limited HVB early, ultimately tamping down the ceiling on her end of season numbers. So it’s conceivable that Vanden Berg could take a run at 1,734 by the time her collegiate career is over if Ryan Theis turns the keys to the offense over to her...... although the [gestures broadly] of the 2020-21 school year might ultimately sabotage her ability to record enough kills as a sophomore to get there.
So it might be soon.... or it might be a few years or it might be a long time. You’d have to figure that as long as Marquette keeps staying in the national conversation, they’ll keep having an All-American type performer as their lead attacker. If they have one that produces as the top attacker on the team for four straight years instead of three like Barber, then they would have a chance at the record. And if Barber’s record goes down quickly, it kind of takes the wind out of the idea of retiring #10 in her name.
And there you have it!
3,100 words later, and I think we have properly encapsulated every single possible candidate for a jersey retirement in MU volleyball history. There’s some very good possibilities in there and at least a couple that feel like they could and should be considered immediately if not sooner.
So let’s turn it over to you, the smart and educated Marquette fan. Which Golden Eagles volleyball star deserves to have her number retired and hung up on the wall on the north side of the McGuire Center? Did I miss someone worth noting? Get in the comments section and walk me through your ideas.
Which Marquette volleyball star most deserves to have her number retired?
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