Sept. 11, 2009
HOUSTON, Texas – South Carolina survived some rough play early on to take a five-set victory over Rice, 20-25, 25-21, 12-25, 25-21, 15-11, in front of 310 people at the Tudor Fieldhouse.
Outside hitters Ivana Kujundzic and Hannah Lawing both put together double-doubles, with Kujundzic having a match-high 22 kills and 12 digs while adding all three of the Gamecocks’ aces. Lawing had 11 kills and 23 digs. Junior Megan Laughlin, returning to the South Carolina (7-0) lineup after a weekend out due to injury, had 13 kills on a team-best .310 hitting percentage while also leading the team with three blocks. Senior Sarah Cline led everyone with her 27 digs, the tops in the 25-point scoring era for South Carolina. She’s now fifth in Gamecock history with 1,095 career digs. Senior Meredith Moorhead matched her career high with 12 digs and added six kills. Senior Bridget Denson-Dorman just missed a double-double with nine digs and 48 assists. Natalie Bogan led Rice (7-2) with 20 kills and eight blocks, while Jenn McClean compiled a double-double with 13 kills and 14 digs. Ashleigh McCord had 13 kills, while Jessie Boulavsky added 10. Tracey Lam led the Owls with 25 digs, with Megan White and Meredith Schamun adding 22 and 10, respectively.
After the Gamecocks took a 6-2 lead in the first, Rice came back to take seven of the next eight points for a 9-7 advantage. Gamecock head coach Ben Somera used his first timeout there, and it paid dividends, as his squad tied it up. However, the Owls responded with a five-point run, helped by two kills from McCord. South Carolina got within three after kills from Kujundzic and Laughlin, but Rice would take control again, getting it to 23-16 after two Bogan kills in one stretch. The Gamecocks tried to make a stand, forcing a Rice timeout after a three-point stand that made it 23-19. But the squads traded side-outs from there, with McCord ending it at 25-20 with a cross-court smash. Rice had six blocks in the first frame, one reason the Gamecocks hit just .070 in the frame compared to .275 for the Owls.
South Carolina put together a four-point run to take a 12-8 advantage in the second, with kills from Lawing, sophomore Tory Anderson and Kujundzic helping the run. Out of the Rice timeout, the Gamecocks kept the advantage for another point on Kujundzic’s smash. A three-point Owl swing closed the lead to 14-12 and forced a Gamecock timeout. The run went to four before Kujundzic ended it with a kill. Rice kept coming, tying the match at 16-16 after a back-row kill by McClean. Laughlin got a kill to break the tie, but the Owls would take the advantage moments later on a four-point run helped by a Bogan kill and ace. South Carolina bounced back with a kill from Laughlin and a block from the junior middle blocker and Denson-Dorman. McCord got a kill to keep Rice ahead, but four straight Owl errors, three of them on attacks, put the Gamecocks ahead 23-21 and drew a timeout from the Rice bench. Another Owl error put the Gamecocks at set point, and Rice hit one more ball wide to hand South Carolina the 25-21 set two win. The Gamecocks out-dug the Owls, 27-21, to help get the win. Cline had 10 digs in the second alone.
Not much went right for the Gamecocks in the third. Rice’s Bogan had four kills, a solo block and two block assists in a 10-point run. Another Owl four-point run made it 15-4. Carolina only got within nine the rest of the way, with Rice ending the set at 25-12 on McClean’s kill. The Owls hit .405 in the third, led by Bogan’s six kills.
The Gamecocks held a two-point lead for half of the fourth until a Rice three-point run put the hosts on top, 15-14. Boulavsky started the span with a kill, while a block by Bogan and McCord caused Somera to use his first timeout of the frame. An ace from Lam made it 16-14, but Kujundzic stopped the run with a kill. That started a five-point run that included kills from Lawing and Moorhead and a Kujundzic ace. After Moorhead’s tip, Rice called their first timeout of the frame. A Boulavsky kill stopped the run, but Lawing and Laughlin got consecutive kills to force the Owls to use their final timeout. After trading side-outs twice, the Owls got kills from McClean and Boulavsky to close to within two. But Kujundzic got a kill out of the final timeout, and the Owl attack went long to give South Carolina the 25-21 set four win. Lawing hit .571 on four kills, while Kujundzic had five to lead the Gamecocks to the win and force a fifth set.
Rice took a 4-1 lead in the fifth behind a pair of early kills by Bogan. The advantage grew to 6-1 before the Gamecocks would settle down. Two Laughlin kills and a Rice attack error closed the gap to 6-4, prompting a timeout from the Owls. But Kujundzic gave South Carolina the 7-6 advantage with two kills around a Rice error. The Owls took back the lead after a McClean kill and two Gamecock errors made it 9-7. A blocking error by Rice stopped its run, but Caroline Gill made a kill to keep the necessary advantage. But that disappeared after Kujundzic got two kills around an Owl handling error to make it 11-10 for Carolina, forcing Rice to use its final timeout. A Gamecock error tied it at 11-11, but South Carolina would bounce back behind Kujundzic, who got two kills, one from the backrow, to make it 13-11. Moorhead got a solo block to give the Gamecocks set point. Kujundzic did not let that pass, landing an ace to take the final set, 15-11.
South Carolina won the digs battle for the seventh straight match, 92-88, but did not win any other statistical category on the night. The win is the Gamecocks’ second road victory over a team that made the 2008 NCAA Tournament.
The Gamecocks return to action on Saturday with an 11 a.m. CDT showdown against No. 23 Wichita State in the second session of the Mizuno Invitational II.