By Kurt Ritzman
Assistant Sports Editor
Despite having one of the best seasons in school history and going 31-5, last year wasn’t all pleasant memories for the Marquette Catholic volleyball team.
A lot of that has to do with the way the season ended, with a 3-2 loss to Janesville one match away from the state tournament.
“After all of our dreams were crushed last year, we kept telling ourselves to think of that moment and how devastated we were,” senior Danielle Bender said. “We’re using that to drive all of our hard work. This is our last chance, so we’ve got to do it. There’s no other option.”
The players all admitted that they have thought about that loss a lot in the past year.
“The Janesville video is on YouTube,” senior setter Kelsey Tebbe said. “To get us motivated, we watch that. The feeling of losing that game is unbearable. We know that we do not want to lose again.”
The Class 1A playoffs start tonight, but the No. 8 Mohawks won’t begin tournament play until next Tuesday. In local action, Prince of Peace and No. 9 Preston both start the postseason tonight with home matches at 7.
Marquette (26-5) got an easier road to state this year as the highest ranked team in its draw, but a possible sixth meeting with Preston looms as a large hurdle. The Mohawks won four of the five meetings this season and all five last year. Preston’s victory came in the finals of Marquette’s tournament.
“At the tournament, I think we were a little overconfident,” Tebbe said. “We didn’t think we could lose. When they beat us, it was definitely a wakeup call.
“Any team out there can beat us. But when we play our game, that’s our time.”
Marquette topped the Trojans twice since then — to clinch the Big East title and in the finals of the Big East Conference tournament.
“We finally broke that barrier and played how we know we can,” Bender said. “But we’ve got to keep going.”
The Mohawks have that experience to build on and a lot of general experience — they start six seniors.
“We’re very close friends,” Tebbe said. “Our sixth-grade year, four of us went up to play on a club team in Dubuque. Then, our seventh-grade year, we started a club. Ever since then, we’ve been playing together.”
That familiarity has led to a comfort level on the court.
“We all know each other,” senior Jacquel Frett said. “We know who has what part of the court and when to call each other off and who will get the ball.”
Success is nothing to new to Marquette girls sports. Last summer, the softball team made its first appearance at the state tournament, and two years ago the girls basketball team, of which Tebbe and Bender were members, advanced to the state semifinals.
“We were ranked not very well at all in softball,” sophomore Blake Banowetz said. “Now we know that rankings mean nothing. You can beat any team as long as you want it.”
Banowetz and sophomore libero Justine Kalmes have broken into the lineup this year, each playing in more than half the games.
“It definitely helps,” Frett said. “We get tired and need to sit out sometimes for a few points to get our momentum back.”
As freshmen, the pair combined to play in about three-quarters of the games.
“This year, I feel more comfortable with them,” Banowetz said. “I think they trust me more. Every one has a certain role on the team.”
The emergence of Banowetz gives the Mohawks six hitters with 60 or more kills — Bender (183), Frett (128), Erica Sieverding (119), Kelli Herrig (97), Lauren Swain (83) and Banowetz (68).
“I’m confident in every one of our hitters,” Tebbe said. “It really helps to not have to go to the same person every time.”
“Last year we had a lot of hitters, but now all six of them are a threat, more than last year.”
The Mohawks said they thought they had what they needed to get at least one step further this season.
“We need to keep playing as a team,” Frett said. “Call the ball and go after everything, no matter what. Our team chemistry is definitely better.”
Marquette is three wins away from getting where it wants to be.
“Most of all, our goal is to win every district game and get to state,” Tebbe said.
“I’m a senior,” Frett said. “I want to make it to state, so I’m going to play my heart out.”