HERD SWEEPS ITS WAY INTO CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT
HUNTINGTON, W.Va—Marshall women’s volleyball played itself into a corner after losing seven straight games and not winning a match in nearly a month. This weekend inside the Cam Henderson Center, Marshall not only got out of the losing corner, but it played itself into the Conference USA tournament. Marshall was 16-12 on the season and 6-8 in conference play before the matchup Friday night against Tulane, needing wins against both Tulane and Sunday opponent UTEP. Marshall wasted little time righting the ship.
In its first home game in three weeks, Marshall swept Tulane in three straight sets, (25-17, 25-21, 25-17), never letting the Green Wave to establish itself in the matchup. Marshall’s fast-paced offense kept Tulane off-balance the entire matchup, providing the Herd opportunities to score early and often.
Marshall’s 13 service aces combined with 37 kills and a .216 hitting percentage proved too much for Tulane to handle.
Marshall head coach Mitch Jacobs said it was Marshall’s service that kept Tulane out of system. “I felt like we put a lot of pressure on Tulane in the service game,” Jacobs said. “We were able to come out and play defense consistently. Better than that, we were on both sides of the ball. We played decent on offense and defense. When mistakes were made, we didn’t harp on them and moved on. We executed in key times.”
|Junior Laura Der with the attack.|
Marshall was led by outside hitter Laura Der with 15 kills, three service aces and nine digs, while finishing with a .244 hitting percentage. Sophomore Katie Potts collected four kills on a .300 hitting percentage, while dropping in three service aces. Freshman Lauren Legge lead the team in services aces, collecting a career high four.
Der praised the play of both underclassmen. “Potts is a great role player,” Der said. “She may not score a lot of points, but she isn’t going to go out and make a bunch of errors. She added so much in today’s match. Lauren has played four different positions this season as a freshman and is always willing to just step in and do what she can to help the team.”
Tulane offensive attack was smothered by the Herd defense, not collecting a single player with double digit kills while having a .083 hitting percentage.
Before Sunday’s matchup with UTEP, Marshall was in a four way tie in the conference at 7-8, tied with Houston, Memphis, and SMU. Although Marshall had many different ways to play its way in, the goal was simple, just win. A Marshall win and the worst possible outcome could be a number 8 seed in the tournament next week in Tulsa.
Before the contest began, seniors Katy Schad and Andrea Snipes-Booker were honored during “Senior Day” inside the Henderson Center. While it was a special day for the seniors, it would prove to be special day for the entire team.
|Junior Dorothy Rahal digs a ball.|
Marshall combined a fierce offensive attack with stellar defensive play, seemingly having the UTEP players guessing at where the next ball would be. UTEP was led by junior Jeane Horton with 14 kills, but Marshall’s defense kept the junior off-balance most of the contest, sweeping the Miners in three sets.
Junior Laura Der found a rhythm early in the first set and her team was quick to follow her lead. “I try to lead by example of my play on the court,” Der said. “I may not be the most vocal person on the court, but I try to let my hustle and speak for itself.”
Der produced the most kills by a league player in three sets, earning 22 in the three set sweep. Her performance in the matchup made her the second ranked player in C-USA in kills and points. Horton finished third.
The Herd finished the match with an average side-out percentage of 76.3, including 82 percent in the final stanza. UTEP never broke 60 percent in the contest.
Marshall head coach Mitch Jacobs was pleased with his team’s effort and its ability to play its way into the tournament. “Our service game came back pretty strong,” Jacobs added. “UTEP just didn’t look like the team we have seen on tape. You can credit our kids for playing really hard with their backs against the wall, knowing it could be win or be out of the tournament today. We played as if it was tournament time.”
The Herd had three players finish with over a .400 hitting percentage in the match providing an answer to every UTEP attack. Der, Byous-McConnell and Potts lead the Marshall attack that totaled 49 total kills and scored its highest hitting percentage of the season.
Although the offense was firing on all cylinders, Marshall’s defense held the UTEP counter-attack in check, allowing Marshall to control the tempo of the game.
|Senior Katy Schad on the attack.|
While noted for her offensive productions in most of this season’s contest, senior Katy Schad provided 20 digs while posting 10 kills, recording the games only double-double in her final game inside the Henderson Center.
“They didn’t ace us tonight,” Jacobs added. “If you look back at our stats from weeks past when we were really on a roll, we would have five, six, seven or more aces against our opponent. Tonight was more like that serve and pass game. We didn’t get aced and they have a few really good servers.”
After losses by Houston, Memphis and SMU, Marshall vaulted into the No. 6 seed and will face UCF Friday night at 8 p.m. ET in the Donald W. Reynolds Center located in Tulsa, Okla. The winner will move on to face the winner of Rice/Houston Saturday at 6 p.m. ET.
“Our goal was to make the conference tournament,” Jacob commented. “And we did that. Now we would like to do something in that tournament positive. It’s a long way to go to Tulsa, so let’s go there and enjoy the tournament and get after it.”
Marshall split with UCF this season, defeating the Knights 3-2 at home and losing 3-1 in Orlando.