While normally 12,000-plus fill the arena for the annual Toyota Capital Classic doubleheaders between the men's and women's basketball games from MU and WVU, a good crowd of 523, with many high school volleyball players in attendance from the Kanawha Valley, saw the Mountaineers take the early lead in game one in the battle for the "Golden Ball" trophy, but that was about the only lead of the night for WVU.
The Herd was never really threatened and thundered to a 3-0 (30-17, 30-18, 30-19) sweep of the Mountaineers. The Herd has now won five years in a row over WVU and has sweep six consecutive games, going back to a 3-1 win in 2005 that saw West Virginia win game one last year. Match three was the closest of the three games and the Herd still won by 11, 30-19, finishing with a finesse shot instead of the dozens of hard-hitting kills in the match by Kelly-Anne Billingy, who totaled 19 kills and just two errors (.515 hitting percentage) and Stephanie Cahill, who had 13 kills on the night.
"It was a nice night," said head coach Mitch Jacobs after the game. "We played well, (WVU) played hard, but we just have a little more talent. We executed and Kelly was great. I thought Christin Bimberg did an awesome job, moved the ball around well. We are putting it together. Stephanie really is starting to come around."
In a series of matches played on a slightly more neutral-looking court, of green and blue outlined in red and black (versus the normal blue and gold-painted wooden basketball floor for the Toyota Capital Classic), MU surged back from an early 2-0 hole in game one to take an 11-6 lead to the first time out, led by Conference USA Offensive Player of the Week Kelly-Anne Billingy. The Trinadad native was honored for the fourth time by C-USA in the junior's career in Marshall's second season in the league. Billingy and the Herd played in the Mid-American Conference when she was a freshman and MU was in the MAC 1997-2005.
"We started off rough this season, but we got it together in time to play this match and we really played well tonight," said Billingy. "That will help us as we go into conference, because we have a tough weekend coming up. We all understand the rivalry, since we came in here as freshmen. It's WVU versus Marshall, be it football, be it basketball, be it volleyball. We just try to get people excited like when they go to the football games. They need to check us out, too. We appreciate all the fans who came out tonight."
Marshall went on to take game one, 30-17, on a net ball by West Virginia. The Herd, who now has won 8-of-9 matches since starting 1-5 on the year and now has four wins in a row, hit .290 in game one to .000 for WVU, on nine kills versus nine errors. The Herd had 15 kills, led by Billingy with six. Stephanie Cahill led the Herd with five digs.
The Herd was dominant throughout the night, taking a 14-6 lead in game two before cruising to a 30-18 win. MU hit .400 in game two, with 21 kills to just five errors and Billingy again had six kills and Cahill had another five digs.
Game three was more of the same. Marshall hit .395, with Billingy chipping in seven kills and Cahill adding six. Marshall needed only about an hour and one-half to put away the Mountaineers, who fall to 1-13. "I think WVU is still trying to find themselves," said Jacobs. "This last weekend and tonight, they are starting to get a lineup out there. They missed their setter for a while, they just got their best player back. (Abby Trevis) is playing with a broken hand. Let's talk about the courage it takes to play volleyball with a broken hand."
Marshall finished the night with 56 kills and just 14 errors, a .368 percentage. Cahill had 13 kills and 12 digs on the night, which led the Herd in that latter category. Bimberg had 31 assists for the Herd. The Mountaineers hit a dismal .009, with 26 kills and 25 errors. Trevis led WVU with nine kills.
NOTES: Marshall had the advantage in fans for the Toyota Capital Classic the MU basketball teams can only hope for. The Thundering Herd is often down three-or-four-to-one in hoops, with so many WVU followers in the Kanawha Valley. For volleyball, however, the Marshall fans were easily outnumbering WVU fans 5-to-1, including members of the MU Spikers booster club…Marshall won the first-ever meeting between the two programs back in 1974, taking two-of-three games in the days of winning with 21 and only scoring during your team's serve. MU still trails in the all-time series 27-12...Billingy's name is listed as being pronounced "BILL-in gee" by MU Sports Information, but Jacobs said it was "BALL-len-gee" on the "Insider Statewide on the ISP Sports Network" radio show before the match. Billingy said it was the latter...Horace Mann Middle School volleyball players served as ball girls for the contest and even they had a Herd look, dressed in their school's uniforms of green and white…Other sponsors besides the Friends of Coal included WVRSN.com, a web site that covers high school, college and even West Virginia Power minor league baseball on the internet…The two teams started the contest on the same benches as the basketball teams, with Marshall to the west and WVU to the East. Of course, volleyball teams change benches for each game of matches in NCAA play, when they change ends of the court…the Marshall student radio station, WMUL 88.FM, calls all Thundering Herd volleyball matches and they are available on its web site at www.marshall.edu/wmul...The Herd will travel to UTEP on Friday to play its second C-USA match, followed by a big home match on Sunday with Tulane in the Cam Henderson Center at 6:00 p.m. MU, Tulsa and UCF are all 1-0 in league play to start. Friday will be UTEP's first conference match.