MCGILL: Rivals await volleyball team at Capital Classic
The Word on the Herd -- Sept. 1, 2016
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Morehead State University sits 69 miles from Marshall University’s campus, and West Virginia University is the only other Division I athletic program within the Mountain State’s borders.
That makes for two natural rivals for the Marshall women’s volleyball program. The Herd will see both teams this Friday, the first of two days of the Capital Classic at the Charleston Civic Center.
MU plays Morehead State first, at 12:30 p.m. The Herd and Mountaineers tangle Friday night at 7:30. Marshall’s third and final match in this weekend’s Classic is against Indiana State. That meeting is set for Saturday at 1 p.m.
Marshall (2-2) enters the Classic after rallying to defeat Ohio in five sets in Tuesday’s home opener. Jacobs filed the come-from-behind victory as a team win highlighted by the play and leadership of his seniors and the quick acclimation to the college game by the team’s newcomers.
“They’re having to lead our sophomores and juniors even more because some of those freshmen have stepped right on the court,” Marshall coach Mitch Jacobs said. “It’s hard to be a year or two ahead of somebody and not be playing.
“I think one leader that I heard the entire match through was Taylor Riedel,” Jacobs added. “Whether she’s on the court or off the court, you hear her leadership the entire match. She’s a senior and she’s the first one to grab a water bottle to make sure her teammates have water. She’s the first one to talk to somebody who looks like they’re losing their confidence. She’s irreplaceable.”
Madelyn Cole, a 5-foot-10 freshman from Dallas, Texas; Jac’cara Walker, a 5-10 freshman from Gainesville, Florida; and Madison Hill, a 6-1 freshman from Rockwall, Texas, all played key roles in their first collegiate action.
“Madelyn Cole had a special night,” Jacobs said. “Madison Hill wasn’t having a great offensive night and she was working her tail off.
“Jac’cara Walker has so much put on her as a freshman. She has a heck of a game, but it’s a lot of pressure. She plays six rotations, she carries a load for us at the service line and she carries a load for us on the front row.”
Marshall trails the all-time series against Morehead State and WVU, but the momentum has shifted since Jacobs’ arrival in 2002. Since then, the Herd is 6-3 against Morehead State and 11-2 against WVU.
“The toughest thing that we’ve got is we’ve got two of our favorite rivalry games, non-conference rivalry games, and we’ve got them on the same day,” Jacobs said. “That’s going to be a really tough mental challenge for our players. We usually like to isolate Morehead and isolate West Virginia.
“We’ve got to try and figure out how to separate them, make sure they don’t think one is bigger than the other, because both are important.”
Jacobs said he considers Morehead State coach Jaime Gordon and WVU coach Reed Sunahara among his closest coaching companions.
“We’re good friends, we work together, we talk volleyball a lot,” Jacobs said. “The new coach at WVU is one of my oldest volleyball friends. That makes me want to win more. That makes him want to win more. We used to play each other every year when he was at Cincinnati. It adds to it.
“But as much as we are friends, this is about Marshall versus Morehead State and Marshall versus West Virginia.”
The only blemish for Morehead State (2-1) is a five-set loss at The Citadel. The Eagles have been swept by the Herd in each of the past two seasons.
WVU (1-2) has played three matches, all in last weekend’s Penn State Classic. The Mountaineers were swept by No. 9 Penn State and No. 19 North Carolina before they returned the favor to unranked Georgia Southern. West Virginia outlasted Marshall in five sets last season after three consecutive wins in the series by the Herd.