BOGACZYK: Weaver, Herd Fire Volley, Bounce Back
The Word on the Herd-Oct. 9, 2015
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Marshall enjoyed a volleyball crowd of 1,575 fueled by youthful Education Day visitors to the Henderson Center on Friday afternoon ... and then appropriately got a lesson in dealing with adversity.
The Thundering Herd, which had dropped six of its previous eight matches, had a two-set lead on visiting UAB, but the Blazers grabbed a third-set edge and then veteran Marshall Coach Mitch Jacobs was carded and told to leave the floor in mid-set.
The Herd rallied before the end of the set to right itself, and then with Jacobs' return to the sideline took the fourth set for a 25-19, 25-17, 18-25, 25-19 Conference USA triumph.
It was a grind-it-out effort by the Herd (12-7, 3-3 C-USA). And junior outside hitter Cassie Weaver said that's typical - and appropriate this time of year.
"This is the hardest part of the season," said Weaver, who finished with 16 kills and 16 digs, sharing the team-high in both categories. "We've been down a lot, losing a lot and we definitely need to keep the goal in mind, making conference (the eight-team C-USA Tournament) now.
"We have to win some important matches to do that, so thinking about how many matches we have left (10), it's very motivational. We're halfway through the season, and now we need to make the most of it."
The top eight among the 13-team C-USA volleyball schools reach the single-elimination field for the Nov. 20-22 tourney in San Antonio, and the Herd has six of its final 10 regular-season matches on the road.
Weaver, a Huntington resident and former Cabell Midland High star who leads Marshall with 259 kills, said staying the course in a match like the one Friday - against last-place UAB (7-14, 0-7) - is critical.
"Definitely we had to stay together as a team," Weaver said when asked about the loss of the third set and Jacobs' leaving the floor. "That was a big test of the team, and going into the fourth (set) we didn't know he was coming back, didn't know he was allowed to come back.
"So, we talked before he came back for the fourth set, and we were like, `We have to do this as a team, or we're going to lose this match.' That was embarrassing the way we lost that third set; there was a lot going on during that set.
"We just wanted to get momentum coming into the fourth set and I think we did that. We came back a little bit in the third set, got some kills, got some blocks, and it really gave us some energy to take that fourth set ... We really needed that fourth set."
Marshall also got 16 digs from libero Allie Kellerman, who leads C-USA in that statistic and ranks in the top 15 in NCAA Division I. Middle blocker Ally Kiekover matched Weaver's 16 kills and produced a .583 hitting percentage.
The second-last point of the match displayed the 5-foot-9 Weaver's versatility, as she dived to keep the play alive and the Herd in a rally, eventually leading to Taylor Pelton's kill for the 24th point before a block by Kiekover and Lauren Legge finished the match.
"Cassie's a year older and a lot more mature, and she's able to rebound back better than she ever has off a bad play, say, or adversity - adverse action out on the court," said Jacobs, whose team played North Texas on Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Henderson Center. "Her ability to come back is special.
"We always say passing is the No. 1 responsibility and defense is the No. 2 responsibility and yet, she missed some pretty big defensive assignments today on a couple of tip plays, but responded in getting us a couple of points, getting us a score, passing the next ball. She makes us a much better team."
Weaver, who made the all-tournament team at the season-opening Eagle Challenge at Morehead State, said she has tried to be a different player - and difference-maker - for the 2015 Herd.
"Errors," she said when asked that's changed mostly about her game. "I haven't been making as many errors. I'm in the same role, but there's more pressure, more expectations. More is expected out of me than last year.
"I'm an upperclassman now, so ... There's more focus. I feel like I'm older, more mature now. I feel like I know what I'm out there for. I'm out there to pass, out there to defend. I'm not out there to put the ball away, and as my game comes, the kills do."