If you haven’t had a chance to read about the many, many returning players on the Marquette volleyball roster this fall, you should go do that. It’s right here, go have fun. Be advised: It’s LONG because Marquette returns nearly their entire rotation from last season and most of their bench. Go get a beverage and maybe a snack, perhaps some beef jerky, and get comfortable before you dig in.
With that in mind, we’re going to go pretty short here while talking about the new players on the roster. There are just two: One freshman and one transfer. We’re going to start with the freshman and then talk about the transfer, and it will all make sense as to why we’re doing that as we go along.
MU’s lone freshman this season is Molly Berezowitz, a 5’7” defensive specialist from Burlington, Wisconsin. She’ll wear #2.
Berezowitz is in an interesting position as a freshman, as she joined the team for their practices leading into their European trip earlier this summer, and then went on the trip as well. As official training camp practice got started earlier this month, Berezowitz is way, way ahead of where a traditional freshman would be in terms of understanding what the coaching staff is going to ask of her.
That’s good news, but the question is whether or not that turns into playing time. I’m not going to say yes and I’m not going to say no, but as we’ll get deeper into it in a minute, Berezowitz does have a bit of a logjam in front of her in terms of available spots in Marquette’s rotation. Fellow Burlington alum Samantha Naber seems to have her spot in the rotation locked down, and it also seems that MU’s libero position has been filled after the departure of Carly Skrabak. Nothing against Berezowitz here, but that’s just the nature of what Marquette’s regular rotation has looked like with Ryan Theis steering the ship.
With that said, Berezowitz isn’t just any other freshman, and not just because of her extra practice time. During her four years at Burlington High School, the Demons made it to at least the state tournament quarterfinals every year. She was the 2022 Racine County Player of the Year as a senior and a second team all-state honoree after getting an honorable mention nod as a junior. Berezowitz also picked up All-American honors from her time with Milwaukee Sting on the club level in 2022.
The point of the story is: Molly Berezowitz can play some volleyball. The question is merely can she contribute to a Marquette team that’s got big time national-level aspirations in mind in 2023?
When Sarah Kushner (#21, 5’10”, Naperville, Illinois) announced that she was transferring to Marquette one day after the Golden Eagles were eliminated from the NCAA tournament, I will admit that I wasn’t quite sure why she was electing to spend her bonus season of eligibility in Milwaukee.
Kushner played four seasons at Illinois State, and she was listed on their roster all four years as an outside hitter. She averaged 2.49 kills per set for the Redbirds and hit .163. She also missed five matches in 2022 due to injury. Kushner was never the star attacker for ISU, so I saw her addition to the roster as bolstering Marquette’s depth. It seemed clear that the Golden Eagles had two top hitter options in Aubrey Hamilton and Jenna Reitsma. Ella Foti had a quality season adapting from being recruited as a setter to playing outside hitter with the addition of Yadhira Anchante to the team. It seemed that this was a depth play by Ryan Theis to make himself more comfortable with the options at his disposal after winning his second straight Big East regular season title and bringing most of his roster back.
And then the team went to Europe.
There’s Sarah Kushner wearing her #21 in Championship Blue..... while the rest of the team wears gold.
Head over to Kushner’s official Marquette team bio, and yep: She’s listed as a libero. Kushner’s also the only libero on the team, with Molly Berezowitz, Jadyn Garrison, Samantha Naber, and Adriana Studer all being listed as defensive specialists. A minor difference to be sure, but still a very notable one as we’re doing season previewing.
That certainly seems to indicate that Kushner will be taking up Carly Skrabak’s vacated role on the roster instead of chipping in as a reserve outside hitter, and that makes her grad transfer to Marquette make a whole lot more sense from an athletic endeavor perspective.
Kushner always played a “do a little bit of everything” part at Illinois State, so this does make a certain amount of sense. She averaged at least 2.39 digs per set in each one of her four seasons as an outside hitter for the Redbirds, and at least 2.70 in her first three non-injury hampered seasons. Those aren’t libero numbers of course — Skrabak averaged 4.41 digs/set last season — but 2.5-ish per set as a hitter is still pretty dang good. Jenna Reitsma and Aubrey Hamilton were both north of 2.50/set last season, and if Kushner is focused on that job, I have no worries that she’ll go rocketing north of 4.0/set as Marquette’s libero.
It’s going to be interesting to watch a 5’10” libero, that’s for sure. Pretty sure that’s a height record in my time watching Marquette volleyball.