MILWAUKEE -- For the second straight year, the Marquette women's volleyball team is headed to the NCAA tournament. The Golden Eagles have been working on balancing their excitement and their preparation in advance of their opener against Creighton.
Bringing their best every day is how the Marquette women's volleyball team explains its success this season.
"Everyone does their part. That's very important with our offense and everything that we do," coach Bond Shymanski said.
Just days removed from its first ever championship final in the Big East tournament, Bond Shymanski's runnerups are now in the NCAA tournament.
"This is what it all boils down to. They've worked their whole lives as student athletes to get to this moment," Shymanski said.
Their 27 wins set a Division I program record.
Holly Mertens, a red-shirt senior was the team's only unanimous All-Conference 1st Team selection.
"I always want to give my all and bring the energy on the court. I'm not very much of a vocal leader, but I like to be the one who's bringing the energy and bringing the team up," Mertens said.
As Mertens and her teammates leave the Al McGuire Center and celebrate their NCAA tournament bid, she says she is reminded of a moment several seasons ago that wasn't so pleasant, but did set her on the course for success.
During her freshman year, it was the second week of preseason practice when the promising player tore her ACL.
"I mean, it was a heartbreaker, but I think that's helped me throughout my career here because I've learned so much being on the sideline and watching the game of volleyball that now that I came back, I can use that to make my play even better," Mertens said.
Mertens says the time off also helped her gain a greater appreciation for the sport.
"You take for granted being healthy every day, and then when it's taken away like that, you really realize how much you love playing the game of volleyball," Mertens said.
Mertens had another surgery about a year later, another learning curve, as she calls it -- and she took that opportunity to take her game to another level. Her coach says she's like the Energizer bunny in Bandaids and rubber bands.
"She's a great story of perseverance. Most athletes, they have two knee surgeries and they just hang up the shoes - and she just kept coming back after it," Shymanski said.
Mertens tries to pass that attitude on to her squad mates and reminds them to take advantage of every money and every play, because you don't know which might be your last.
"We know what we have and we know what we have to do against Creighton. We just want to go do it now," Shymanski said.
Mertens will graduate in December with a degree in advertising and public relations.