Aug. 29, 2009
CLEMSON, S.C. – The Carolina Gamecocks captured their third straight preseason tournament title with a 3-1 win over Winthrop, 29-27, 21-25, 25-11, 25-15, in the Big Orange Bash on Saturday afternoon at Jervey Gymnasium.
Senior Ivana Kujundzic and junior Hannah Lawing kept their double-double streaks alive, with Kujundzic leading the team with 15 kills and adding 12 digs. Lawing contributed 14 kills and 18 digs. Senior Sarah Cline led all players with 20 digs. Senior Bridget Denson-Dorman had 40 assist and six kills. Sophomore Teresa Stenlund just missed her first double-figure kill night with nine kills. Kelley Taylor’s 14 kills led Winthrop (0-3), while Kaley Viola had 10 kills and 10 digs. Kelsey Hall and Ginnie Tally both added 15 digs, while Kelsey Harrison posted 11 digs.
“I was real proud of the way we competed and figured out ways to win this weekend,” said Gamecock head coach Ben Somera. “The play wasn’t always smooth, but we found ways to get through the rough spots and maintain our composure and focus at the most crucial times. I also feel really good about the way we ended the match. It is not easy to play three in-state rivals in one weekend. Each point was very emotional. It was nice to watch us acclimate to the intensity, settle in and play really solid volleyball to end the weekend.”
In the first, South Carolina (3-0) took a 6-4 lead behind three Kujundzic kills and a Megan Laughlin smash on an overpass. The Eagles came back to take a 12-10 lead after a four-point run included kills from Viola and Taylor. The Gamecocks retook the lead at 17-14 and tried to hang on. A solo block from sophomore Tory Anderson put the Gamecocks at set point, 24-22. A Winthrop dump by the setter Hall and a block from Viola and Sara Felts extended the frame. The Gamecocks kept getting to set point but couldn’t capitalize till after Lawing’s back-row tip gave Denson-Dorman a chance to wrap it with her fourth kill on the set dump. Lawing had five of the 19 kills, while Kujundzic matched Denson-Dorman with four kills. Lawing also had eight digs while Cline had seven.
Winthrop came back from an 8-4 deficit to take a 17-14 lead in the second set. A three-point run made it 21-17, with all three kills coming on tips. The Eagles stayed ahead with two more tips before finishing off the set, 25-21, on Felts’ kill. Winthrop held South Carolina to a .056 hitting percentage, with the Eagles’ Taylor getting six kills in the frame.
The Gamecocks got the advantage in the third at 11-7 after a three-point run bookended by kills by Lawing and Kujundzic. The lead grew to 15-9 after another Denson-Dorman dump, forcing Winthrop to use its second timeout. But that did not slow the Gamecocks, as they took 10 of the final 12 points to take the 25-11 set three win. The Gamecocks hit .321 in the set while holding Winthrop to a -.034 mark.
The Garnet and Black took a 6-1 advantage in the fourth behind a couple of Stenlund kills. The run finally ended at nine when Taylor got a kill off the block. But South Carolina’s dominance continued, getting the lead to 20-7 at one point. Anderson ended the match with a kill at 25-15. In the final set, redshirt freshman Olivia Ryder got her first career kill, while redshirt freshman Lindsey Roy had four digs during her debut. The Gamecocks hit .353 in the final set.
The Gamecocks had advantages in every statistical category, including a .247 to .118 difference in hitting percentage.
Kujundzic earned tournament MVP accolades, while Cline and Lawing joined her on the all-tournament team. The tourney win is the team’s third consecutive, as it won the Art Carmichael Invitational at Rhode Island and the Carolina Challenge in 2008.
South Carolina hosts the 2009 Gamecock Invitational next weekend at the Volleyball Competition Facility, when Eastern Kentucky, Coastal Carolina and UNC Greensboro come to town. The tournament starts when the Gamecocks and Colonels meet at 10 a.m. EDT on Friday.