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MU Volleyball

Marshall University volleyball players Nickie Sanlin, Katherine Poss, Katie Stein, Maggie Arias and Jalicia Ross show their excitement at finding out that their first-round opponent in the NCAA volleyball sectional will be No. 13 seed Ohio State. Marshall secured its first NCAA bid since 1995 by winning the Conference USA tournament in Houston.

With Marshall in its final two weeks as a member of Conference USA, we look back at the top-10 moments for the Thundering Herd in its 17-year C-USA history. We start this series with No. 10 — Marshall’s 2005 Conference USA volleyball championship.

HUNTINGTON — It didn’t take Marshall long to make an impact in its new league.

Marshall’s 2005 volleyball team used some magic late in tournament matches and an epic championship battle to earn a 3-2 win over Houston in the 2005 Conference USA volleyball championship, the Thundering Herd’s first title in its new conference.

Led by now-Marshall Hall-of-Famers Kelly-Anne Billingy and Katie Stein, the Thundering Herd earned the No. 1 seed for the Conference USA Tournament after going 15-1 in league play, but had to battle to make the championship game with a pair of five-set comeback wins in the quarterfinals and semifinals over UCF and UTEP to earn the date in the title game with Houston.

“I’m so proud of these girls,” Marshall head coach Mitch Jacobs said after the title win. “I think I’ve aged 10 years this weekend, but to see these girls win, it is awesome. They are champions because they play with the heart of champions.”

The championship match pitted the top two teams in C-USA against each other and neither disappointed as they battled back and forth throughout.

The teams traded set wins with Marshall earning the set-one victory while Houston evened things in set two.

In the third set, Marshall went up 2-1 with a 30-28 win and was two points from a championship in the fourth set, leading 28-27 before Houston notched three straight points to send the match to a decisive fifth set.

Houston used that momentum to jump to a 3-0 lead in the fifth set, but Marshall scored eight of the next nine points to take a lead it would not relinquish.

Stein set up Amber Sims for the championship-winning kill — Stein’s ninth assist of the fifth set — to send the Herd into a celebration and the NCAA Tournament.

Billingy finished the match with 28 kills while Sims added 19. Nickie Sanlin added 14 and Stephanie Cahill notched 12 in the balanced attack for the Herd, who hit .290 for the match.

Stein ended the match with 75 assists and five Marshall players — led by Maggie Arias — finished in double digits in digs to lead the Herd to the title.

The win placed Marshall in the 2005 NCAA Tournament where they fell to No. 13 seed Ohio State in straight sets, ending one of the program’s most successful seasons in history at 25-6.

“To be C-USA champs and make it to the NCAA Tournament, I’m so proud of this team,” Jacobs said. “I know these seniors and this team set a goal to make it here and they had an outstanding year.”

It was a season in which the team had a 12-match winning streak en route to the Conference USA championship.

At season’s end, Billingy and Stein earned All-American status with both being named to the AVCA All-American honorable mention list.

Grant Traylor is HD Media’s regional sports editor. He can be reached at 304-526-2773 or gtraylor@hdmediallc.com. Follow him on Twitter @GrantTraylor.