Against UAB, Stephanie Cahill had her eighth double-double with 20 kills and 12 digs. Kelly-Anne Billingy had 17 kills and two aces, while Maggie Arias added 15 digs. Elizabeth Fleming recorded 55 assists and 11 digs in the 8th straight win.Last Sunday at the Cam Henderson Center, before the Herd headed this weekend to Birmingham and Memphis (and the Tigers won on Friday night over East Carolina, 3-0/30-20/27/27, to improve to 22-10, 11-4 in league play), Marshall volleyball closed the season with a 3-0 win over UCF. Marshall seniors Kelly-Anne Billingy, Stepanie Cahill, Uche Ndubisi and Maggie Arias have posted a 37-4 winning mark at the Cam Henderson Center in their careers and while Sunday was the final regular season game, they will be back Nov. 15-18 to host the Conference USA Tournament and look for their second C-USA title in two years.
Billingy is a three-time American Volleyball Coaches Association All-American and two-time C-USA Player of the Year, and is an odds-on favorite to repeat in both categories. She is Marshall's all-time kills leader with 2,414 and attempts with over 5,000. She has 185 aces, second all-time at MU, and needs only 15 to be first all-time. Cahill is a two-time All-C-USA selection and is second to only Billingy in kills 1,393. She is third all-time in digs with 1,289, and needs just five more to be second all-time in digs at MU. She is also third on the aces list with 158.
Arias was All-C-USA in 2006 and is the Herd's all-time leader in digs with 1,714. She has 469 this year. Ndubisi was also All-Conference USA last season and has 659 career kills and 273 career blocks. She needs just 25 blocks shy of joining the top blockers of all-time for Herd volleyball. This group was second in the Mid-American Conference in 2004, then won the regular season and tournament titles in their first year in C-USA in 2005.
It is the fourth-straight 20-win season for MU volleyball, with the tournament in Huntington next week, and each senior might eventually make that a favorite memory, but for now:
Billings-"The C-USA tournament my sophomore year. We came from being down 0-2 twice to win the championship and were the first team at Marshall to win a Conference USA title."
Cahill-"Winning the conference championship and having the team at my house for Thanksgiving."
Arias-"Going to Trinidad with the entire team our freshman year and winning the Conference USA championship our sophomore year."
Ndubisi-"When we got our rings at the (sold-out, 9043 in attendance) Memphis basketball game and had our banner raised. We got a standing ovation."
Game one, the Herd showed those senior nerves in an uneven win, 30-27. Marshall trailed by as much as six, 13-19, and was down 20-24 before Ndubisis and Billingy combined to get the Herd even at 26-26. The Herd seemed to settle down midway through game two, running out from a 12-12 tie to a 30-21 win over the winless, in league play, Knights. Marshall closed out the match with a 30-24 win.
With the win at UAB on Friday, Nov. 9, Marshall is now 14-1 in league play, 21-8 overall. The Herd has won eight matches in a row and 15 of its last 16. The Herd closes the regular season on Sunday at Memphis. Fleming, the true freshman setter, issued a challenge towards UAB and Memphis last weekend while the Herd was sweeping Southern Miss and UCF. "UAB had better be ready, because that was our one loss," said Fleming. "We will be looking for revenge, and Memphis, we have a little history with them, so we'll get after them too."
Emotions run high on senior day, but these four seniors know they have the opportunity that only Marshall football players in 1992, 1996-2000 and 2002 have had before: to enjoy senior day, but come back home for a chance to win a championship. "Yeah, its so exciting," said Cahill, who had her seventh double-double of the year with 11 kills and 10 digs. "It was great but its not our last game here. We get a chance to come back to a court where, I don't know the number, but we have not lost very many games (four) in four years." Billingy, who had 14 kills to lead the Herd again, agreed with her teammate. "If Steph didn't cry, I said I wouldn't cry, but how can you not. We're not just finishing our careers, but we are losing teammates like they are losing us.
"It's hard to focus on the game when your emotions are going," said the native of Trinidad. "It's the last time you wear your home uniform, but we got our focus. UCF had nothing to lose, and knocking us off would be big, but we wanted to come out and have a great night. We kind of have an OK record on this floor, so we are pretty excited. It was great to have my family here to meet my family at Marshall." Billingy's mother and brother were at her game today, the first they have seen in Huntington.
Ndubisi, somewhat overshadowed by her other frontline teammates kills and digs totals, was singled out by Billingy and Cahill as a leader of this team. "It's really exciting to have the conference tournament here for my senior year and put another mark up on the flag up there," said Ndubisi of the Conference USA and NCAA Tournament banners from 2005. Olympic sports have really jumped in the attentions of Herd fans, with tennis' national success, softball playing for the C-USA title last year and volleyball's successes. "The program had been in the MAC tournament twice when we got here. We came in with the mindset to work hard and play hard and you'll get what's coming to you, that's what coach says. It was expected that we would compete at a high level and we have."
Arias, called the "team Mom" by Cahill, is the heart and soul of the team at non-volleyball like height of 5-foot-2. She was amazed at how quick the time flew by, but is still looking forward to the C-USA Tournament. "The past two years, every years has gone past faster and faster," said Arias. "It kind of feels weird, since we will be back here in two weeks. It will mean a lot to win here on our home court, in front of our home crowd. That would be the cherry on top of the sundae."