Nov. 22, 2013
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Murfreesboro, Tenn. – Fourth-seeded Marshall volleyball defeated fifth-seeded North Texas in a thrilling five-set match (25-23, 15-25, 25-20, 31-29, 15-11) Friday evening at Alumni Memorial Gym to advance to the semifinals of the Conference USA Tournament.
“I really challenged them after set four to stay together, and not to worry about what just took place,” coach Mitch Jacobs said. “We had some scramble situations that we didn’t get it done. Lauren (Legge) and I had a very pleasant conversation and we moved on, and the best part about it is they moved on. To get that one service run, stretched us out a few points.
“If you look at the stats right now you have 10 and 11 kills in a 15-point set with .390 and .320 hitting percentage. I am so proud of these guys, sticking together and working hard this whole season.”
The Thundering Herd will play No. 1 seed UTSA in the semifinals Saturday at 4 p.m. ET. UTSA defeated Marshall 3-1 on Nov. 3 at the Cam Henderson Center. Marshall improved to 16-15 on the season while the Mean Green to 17-15 on the year.
Leading the way for the Herd was senior outside hitter Laura Der (Clarksville, Ind.) who tallied a season-high 22 kills, including the game-clinching kill and collected 13 digs. Freshman outside hitter Elyse Panick (Chicago) tallied 16 kills with a .273 hitting percentage while fellow freshman outside hitter Cassie Weaver (Huntington, W. Va.) recorded 13 kills. Junior setter Sammie Bane (Brownstown, Ind.) posted 53 assists and 15 digs while senior libero Dorothy Rahal (Venice, Fla.) tallied a match-best 19 digs.
The two teams came out of the gates looking good and things were tied at seven all before Marshall was able to rally off three straight points to take a 10-7 advantage. The Herd was able to keep that lead going into the media timeout up 15-12. The Herd was able to go on a 6-2 run, including five straight points to force North Texas into two timeouts. The Mean Green fought back tough and forced Marshall into two timeouts but the Herd was able to keep its momentum and win the first set, 25-23.
North Texas looked to be the aggressors in the second frame and jumped out to a 7-3 advantage and forced Marshall into an early timeout. The Herd was unable to gain any energy and called a second timeout, trailing 13-8. The Mean Green took the more aggressive approach and finished the set on a 12-7 run to when the second frame 25-15.
Marshall came out after the intermission looking more focused and like a team that was willing to fight to advance in the tournament. The teams were even throughout the early part of the set before Marshall forced North Texas into a timeout up 12-9. The Herd was able to push the lead to 17-12 before UNT pulled it with in two at 18-16 and forcing Jacobs into a timeout. The Herd rallied with two consecutive points to force the Mean Green into a timeout up 20-16. Marshall finished the set on a 5-4 run to win the third frame, 25-20.
The fourth set was all about the runs for each team. Marshall came out looking hungry and opened on an 8-4 run before North Texas went on a 13-2 run, including a 10-0 stretch. The Herd countered that run with a 7-2 one of its own to pull the set within two at 19-17. Marshall was able to tie the set at 21 all and push UNT to the brink up 24-23. The crowd then buckled in for a wild ride as each team traded points into the set was knotted at 29 all. An attack error by Der and a kill from Analisse Shannon allowed the Mean Green to take the fourth set, 31-29.
A pair of first team All-Conference USA selections were able to take over in the fifth frame for their respective teams as Der led Marshall with four kills, as did UNT’s Carnae Dillard. Marshall was about to reach the all-important eight point mark before North Texas lost on an attack error by Courtney Windham. The Herd was able to force North Texas into its first timeout trailing 10-8 and its last trailing 13-9. The senior captain, Der was able to close out the match for the Herd with a big kill that smashed down in the back court.
“That was a complete team effort,” said Der. “He (coach Mitch Jacobs) made the comment that we can’t do this as individuals. You can’t have just six individuals trying to figure out their game, trying to step up their game. It was a team effort. When someone was struggling, someone else picked them up. We balanced each other out and complemented each really well. We fought so hard and that is a testament to something we have been trying to do all season long is just to play as hard as we can. Win or lose, we know that we left everything we had out on the court and we can honestly say that we did that today.”
Marshall will face No. 1 seed UTSA on Saturday at 4 p.m. ET. The Roadrunners defeated Southern Miss, 3-0 on Friday to advance to the semifinals. UTSA defeated Marshall 3-1 on Nov. 3 at the Cam Henderson Center. The Roadrunners feature C-USA Player of the Year Mackenzie Adams.
“It is really kind of fun, because we haven’t been in the semifinals for a while,” said Jacobs. “We are going to enjoy this for a little bit and really they know what it is. We have been bitten by too many unforced hitting errors in the last three weeks and we were doing a really good job at being efficient. We just have to get back to it. UTSA is a tall order. We know how much work we have got to do to stay in it and hopefully we can stay tight with them and pull out the sets we need.”
“Obviously, we have to give them a lot of credit because they are a fabulous team, but we are not backing down from anybody,” said Der. “The mentality that we have to have is that if we are going to win this thing we have to be able to beat anybody. They might be bigger, but I know that we have a lot of heart on this team. Just from being on this team for four years I know that we are not going to quit. If it comes down to they are bigger than us and they are better that day, then that is the way it is going to go. We are not going to get out-worked tomorrow and we are not going to just lay down and let it slip away. We are going to fight till the end.”
HOW TO WATCH
The semifinal matches will be carried on the C-USA Digital Network, while the championship match will be televised on CBS Sports Network. All matches can be viewed on the network by purchasing a $14.95 monthly subscription or a $119.95 annual subscription. Current subscribers to the C-USA Digital Network can just click the "watch links" on the Volleyball Championship Central site to view the current match in progress.
All-session passes are $20, while single-session adult passes are $10, as are all-session youth passes. Single-session youth passes are $5, while single-session student passes are free of charge.
For more information of Marshall volleyball, follow (@HerdVolleyball) on Twitter or visit www.HerdZone.com.