MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – In a match that featured 31 ties and 14 lead changes, West Virginia came up with the victory against the Marshall University volleyball team, 3-0 (24-26, 21-25, 23-25) in the Battle of the Golden Ball at the West Virginia Coliseum on Tuesday night.
The win ups the Mountaineers to 8-3 and snaps an eight-match losing streak to Marshall, which slides to a 4-5 record on the season.
“From the get go, the team was convinced they were going to win like in recent years, but you have to show up and play and we didn’t play all the way through,” head coach Mitch Jacobs said.
In the first set of the match between the two rivals, a total of 17 ties took place. Both the Thundering Herd and Mountaineers battled back-and-forth with neither team able to build much momentum or a substantial lead. A kill from Sacha Byous-McConnell from Elizabeth Fleming gave the Herd life with an 8-6 lead. The tides turned quickly in favor of WVU, as a 4-0 spurt gave the Mountaineers a two-point edge of their own, 10-8.
A block from Fleming and freshman Desirre Wilkerson followed by a WVU attacking error pushed MU to another two-point lead later in the contest, 18-16. The teams traded points, until the stanza became deadlocked at 24-all thanks to a Katy Schad kill. Unfortunately for the Herd, WVU’s Michelle Kopecky connected on a spike prior to Abby Norman and Serinna Russo teaming up for a block to capture the first frame, 26-24.
The even play between the two schools continued into the second set as the teams tied 14 more times to bring the score to a 20-all stand still on a Wilkerson kill. The WVU offense utilized a 5-1 jolt to close out the frame as the home team hit .429 (16K-1E-35TA) for the set to take a commanding 2-0 advantage.
“We played really well in games one and two until around the 18-point mark,” Jacobs said. “West Virginia just played with extreme desire to win the match.”
After the 10 minute intermission, the Herd found itself in a 10-6 hole and forced into a timeout. MU continued to stay within reach, not trailing by more than four points throughout the frame. Back-to-back kills from Elizabeth Herman put MU down just one, 24-23, but the glimmer of hope was short lived as WVU put away the final point to claim the set and the match.
“The difference tonight was in our unforced errors and the Mountaineers experience in long rallies,” Jacob said.
Freshman Dorothy Rahal has been a defensive spark for the Herd since taking over the libero position. For the third consecutive match, the Venice, Fla., native reset her career-high in digs with 22 on Tuesday.
Fleming recorded her fourth double-double of the season, as the senior dished out 35 assists along with 10 digs for the Herd.
For the fifth-straight match Herman posted 14-or-more kills by connecting a match-best 17 times on the evening.
Next on the schedule for the Herd is a tournament hosted by Saint Louis University, which includes Western Kentucky and Lipscomb. The first match of the weekend is slated for Friday, Sept. 17 at 5:30 p.m. EST, followed by a doubleheader on Saturday, Sept. 18 with games at 11 a.m. EST and 5:30 p.m. EST, respectively.