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MCGILL: Herd volleyball sweeps a result of chemistry, unselfishness

Cassie Weaver.
Sept. 29, 2016

Marshall at Southern Miss Live Stream

By Chuck McGill

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- Marshall women's volleyball coach Mitch Jacobs has been swept off his feet. It's his team that has been doing the sweeping.

"The sweeps have been amazing," Jacobs said. "I thought we had a chance to be pretty good this year, and the jury is still out as to how this team finishes.

"But, just the fact that we've been able to play different people and not get all these sweeps with the same people on the court is what is impressive."

The Herd (13-4, 2-0), perfect in Conference USA play after a pair of home sweeps, hits the road for a league challenge Friday night against Southern Mississippi (12-5, 1-1). Marshall has lost four consecutive games in the series with the Golden Eagles, and hasn't won in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, since Oct. 22, 2009.

"They are a really good team -- really good," Jacobs said. "They don't make many mistakes and we've got to see if we can handle that."

Lately, the Herd hasn't had many blemishes, either.

Marshall has won nine of its last 10 matches -- the lone loss against No. 7 Florida after the Herd managed to take the first set. Otherwise, the MU women have swept the other nine opponents during that stretch. Before losing the second set to the nationally ranked Gators, Marshall had won 22 consecutive sets. After the loss in Gainesville, Florida, the Herd made quick work of conference opponents Charlotte and Middle Tennessee to push the season sweep total to 10.

That is 13 wins, 10 of which have been sweeps.

"We all want the same thing," said Cassie Weaver, a senior who starred at nearby Cabell Midland High School. "It's not like two people are out there wanting to sweep and the rest just want to get a win.

"I feel like everybody, every set, wants to play their best. We don't take a set off."

This is Jacobs' 15th season at the helm of the program, and this is his sixth team to sweep at least 10 opponents. The 2009 team was the last to accomplish the feat, the same team that last won at Southern Miss. The 2005 squad holds the single-season record under Jacobs' watch -- 19 sweeps. Through 17 games, the 2005 team was also 13-4, but with 11 sweeps.

"Part of it is our confidence going into matches," said Allie Kellerman, a senior from Louisville, Kentucky. "We obviously have a lot of talent this year, and I think we've made the right connections between everyone. Between the bench to the people on the court to the coaches. That gives us confidence to put sets away."

Marshall has accomplished this through the midpoint of the season while consistently shuffling starting lineups, and doing it with a blend of senior leadership and talented newcomers. There are eight players who have played at least 50 sets: three seniors, one junior and four freshmen.

"To have three or four freshmen on the floor at times and be able to maintain the mental toughness to finish matches in three (sets), that's amazing," Jacobs said. "I'm really proud of what we're doing."

Marshall's versatility and depth helped the team through the rigors of the non-conference schedule. The team played three matches in two days at four different events: Indiana Invitational, Capital Classic, Toledo Invitational and Active Ankle Challenge in Gainesville.

The next match after Southern Miss is Friday, Oct. 7. In most cases in conference play, the Herd will play two matches in three days.

"Now we're going into conference and you've got one or two matches per week ... the question is whether we can keep our form and can we keep getting better?" Jacobs said. "We're not playing as much now so our practice gym becomes more important. How that depth performs against each other will tell whether we're able to maintain."

Jacobs praised his four seniors for leading the team to this point, and credited all 18 players for buying into their role.

"This is fun," he said. "It is fun right now because we can make moves with the lineup and it doesn't hurt the chemistry.

"They're being very unselfish with each other."