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Redbird Volleyball Drops Season Opener to Marquette

Written by on January 22, 2021

Photo courtesy of goredbirds.com

Story by Jake Fogal

MILWAUKEE Wis.-A tougher schedule was sought out by Illinois State volleyball head coach Leah Johnson, and found was a No. 20 ranked Marquette Golden Eagles team that delivered the Redbirds their first loss on the spring season. Although competitive throughout, ISU could not maintain a lead down the stretch of each of the second and third sets, giving Marquette a sweep victory. 

As said on Monday, coach Johnson dawned heels for the first time since 2019 and even in a loss, the excitement still drives her to adjust to the new season, just like she has to adjust back into heels. 

“It felt good to be back out there. We oscillated from it being perfectly normal to being a very foreign feeling. It’s hard to describe because you do this your whole life, so there is a normalcy to it. I still think the buildup was very challenging for everyone, which is not an excuse, it’s just what it felt like. This is a team that just needs to find themselves again. Not in a bad way, but we just need to find our rhythm and get back into the swing of things.” 

Kaylee Martin led the Redbirds with 13 kills, while team captain Stef Jankiewicz had 26 assists and co-captain Kendal Meier added 16 digs.  

Freshman Kaitlyn Prondzinski impressed in her debut as a Redbird, having four kills and three blocks. Johnson gave praise to Prondzinski for coming off the bench and making an immediate impact for the team. 

Ahead of their clash with Marquette at 1:00 p.m. tomorrow, Coach Johnson noted her team needs to work on earning more of their own points. 

“One thing that we always take pride in is our transition game. We dug balls at a high level, we transitioned, took big rips out of system. Our outsides did a great job managing their play at an efficient level. We need to get more production out of the middle and right side and earn our own points. That’s it. We’re two or three kills away from that game being a whole different match,” said Johnson. 

The Golden Eagles fell behind 8-to-in the first set but started a run that saw the Redbirds trail by eight points at one point. Five service errors proved to be the only struggle for the No. 20 ranked Eagles, as ISU could only account for eight kills in the set. MU took the opening set by six points, 25-19. 

Not until midway through the second set was ISU able to extend a lead, where they led 15-to-9. As mentioned earlier, a resilient Eagles team couldn’t be held down, snatching the lead from the Redbirds 24-22, after three consecutive errors were committed by Martin and Jankiewicz. Taylor Wolf, who had 10 kills to lead Marquette, finished the second set off with a kill. 

In a similar situation to the second set, the Redbirds held a 16-to-11 advantage, before Marquette came storming back to take a 25-21 third set win and sweep.