Nov. 17, 2006
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The South Carolina volleyball team saw its hopes of an at-large NCAA Tournament bid dashed Friday night in Tuscaloosa, Ala., as the Crimson Tide of Alabama registered a 3-1 (30-27, 25-30, 21-30, 24-30) victory. The Gamecocks dropped to 15-16 on the year and finished with an 8-12 record in the SEC. Alabama improved to 16-12 and 11-8 in the conference.
With the loss, South Carolina was eliminated from consideration for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, as teams must have above a .500 winning percentage. South Carolina will conclude the 2006 regular season hosting College of Charleston on Wednesday at 5 p.m. in the Volleyball Competition Facility.
Shonda Cole finished with 18 kills to lead South Carolina while adding 11 digs for her team-leading 10th double-double of the season. Alexcis Thomson had 45 assists as USC’s setter and contributed four kills and nine defensive saves. Meredith Moorhead had her first career double-double on 15 kills and 12 digs, while Marija Milosevic and Belita Salters added seven and eight kills. Dinelia Concepcion tallied 28 digs for a career high.
Crystal Hudson led Alabama’s offense with 19 kills. Bridget Fuentez and Brooks Webster had 14 and 10. Setter Brigitte Slack tallied 52 assists, seven digs and five kills. Amy Pauly turned in an impressive defensive performance with 26 digs.
Carolina finished with a .116 hitting percentage (57-36-181) and Alabama connected at a .222 clip (62-24-171). Alabama made 85 digs to South Carolina’s 80 and had 15.5 team blocks compared to six for the Gamecocks.
The Gamecocks raced out to a 3-0 lead in the first game, however, Alabama went on a 4-0 run after the score was tied at 8-all. Carolina charged back to tie the contest up at 19-19 after the Crimson Tide’s Hudson mistimed her jump on Slack’s set and the ball fell to the ground. USC managed to build a 24-21 advantage after a kill by Cole, but Alabama answered by winning the next four rallies. Fuentez put Bama up 27-25 following a kill, but the Gamecocks rallied with a 5-0 run that included two kills by Cole and one each by Milosevic and Salters. Concepcion was a major factor for USC in the frame, contributing 10 digs.
Alabama had a 13-8 lead in the second game, but Carolina won eight of the next 11 points to bring the stanza to a stalemate at 16-all. The Crimson Tide retook the lead on the ensuing rally and eventually pushed the margin to four, 24-20, when Moorhead fired wide on an attack from the right side. Alabama surged to a seven-point lead at 29-22 before USC scored three unanswered points. Webster was able to put the game in the books with her fifth kill of the evening to tie the match at one game apiece.
The Crimson Tide went on a 5-0 run after leading 8-7 in the third game, and South Carolina never managed to recover. USC tried to come back when Moorhead served up an ace to make the score 20-14 in favor of Alabama, but Slack dumped a ball for a kill on the next rally to disrupt the Gamecocks’ momentum. The Tide continued to rip kills from the right side for the rest of the frame en route to a 2-1 advantage in games won.
USC’s Sarah Cline hit a serve that clipped the top of the net and just dropped over on Alabama’s side for an ace to put her team up 9-7 in game four. The Crimson Tide responded by claiming six of the next seven points to snare a 13-10 advantage. Alabama was still leading by three at 15-12 before using a 5-1 run to put the game too far out of reach for South Carolina. USC did close the margin to as few as three, 21-18, but Alabama’s defense was too tough to penetrate.