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Sept. 12, 2008


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COLUMBIA, S.C. – Junior outside hitter Ivana Kujundzic and the South Carolina Gamecocks pulled off a stunning, 3-2 victory over in-state rival Clemson, 19-25, 25-14, 25-18, 22-25, 18-16, on Friday night at the Volleyball Competition Facility in front of 1,032 fans and a statewide television audience on SC ETV. The victory moves the Gamecocks to 7-1 on the season and clinches at least a share of the Carolina Challenge title, while the Tigers fell to 5-3.

Kujundzic put together her second straight double-double in the tournament, getting 22 kills and 15 digs in the outing, hitting .347 to lead the Gamecocks while also adding two blocks. Junior setter Bridget Denson-Dorman doubled up as well, making 52 assists and 13 digs. Redshirt senior middle blocker Belita Salters had 18 kills, while sophomore outside hitter Annie Thomas added 13. Junior outside hitter Meredith Moorhead hit .320 en route to a 10-kill night. Junior libero Sarah Cline led South Carolina with 19 digs, while sophomore Hannah Lawing added 14. Senior Petra Lorenzi also had 12 digs. Lia Proctor and Danielle Hepburn, who both had 16 kills, led the Tigers. Hepburn added six blocks, tying teammate Kelsey Murphy in that category. Murphy also had 44 assists and 11 digs. Didem Ege added 25 digs, tops among all players, while Jeannette Abbott contributed 11 kills.

Play in the fifth set was nip and tuck all the way till the end. Clemson went on a three-point run, capped by a Murphy smash, to get to match point at 14-12. Kujundzic got a kill to get the Gamecocks back on serve, where Cline served up an ace to tie up the match at 14-14. The teams swapped sideouts until Kujundzic made two-consecutive kills, the first from the back row, to give the Gamecocks the chance to win. Thomas stepped up and drilled the final set from Denson-Dorman, handing South Carolina the 18-16 set-five win. Kujundzic had six kills, while Salters added four in the frame. Cline made five of her digs in that final set, while Denson-Dorman dished out 13 assists.

Clemson got out to a 14-8 advantage in the fourth before the Gamecocks started to turn things around. They would fight back to 21-18 after a pair of Tiger attack errors, but Clemson got back to set point at 24-20 on a Hepburn kill. South Carolina got within two after a Kujundzic kill and a Tiger error, but Abbott would end the frame with her fifth kill of the set. She also had eight digs in the fourth set alone.

After battling back and forth in the early going of the third set, the Gamecocks took control at 12-6 thanks to a four-point run that included kills by sophomore Megan Laughlin, Thomas and Moorhead. Another four-point run would put the lead at 22-15, getting two kills from Laughlin and Kujundzic’s second ace of the frame. The Gamecocks would capture the frame at 25-18 after a Clemson attack error. Laughlin and Salters both had five kills in the third, while the Gamecocks hit .343.

South Carolina dominated the second set, winning it, 25-14. Kujundzic had eight kills alone in the second set, hitting .538 in the process. Lawing played outstanding defense as well, making eight digs in the frame. Salters also hit well in the second, compiling a .571 average (4-0-7). As a team, South Carolina hit .324 in the second.

The first set was back-and-forth until the Tigers put together a four-point run to take a 12-9 lead. Hepburn and Abbott both had kills in the stretch, while Proctor capped it with an ace. The squads never got more than four points apart the rest of the frame until the end, when the Tigers got the final four points thanks to a pair of Murphy aces and two Brittany Fennell block assists. Proctor had nine kills in the first frame alone, hitting .500 in the set. Ege also had seven digs, while Murphy added five digs and 15 assists.

The Gamecocks now are on their longest winning streak since 2002, as their current streak stands at seven. South Carolina would need four more to match the 2002 NCAA Tournament-bound squad’s 11-match mark.

The Carolina Challenge concludes on Saturday with the Gamecocks facing Winthrop at 10 a.m., the prelude to the Clemson-College of Charleston showdown at 12:30 p.m.