Sept. 25, 2009
COLUMBIA, S.C. – Despite dominating performances in set two and three, South Carolina could not hold down Alabama, as the Crimson Tide escaped the Volleyball Competition Facility with a five-set (25-23, 14-25, 18-25, 26-24, 15-9) win over the Gamecocks.
The Tide (5-8, 3-0 SEC) had three players with double figures in kills. Alyssa Meuth led everyone with 18, while Ashley Frazier was close behind with 17. Kayla Fitterer added 13 kills. Kayla Schmidt posted a double-double with 32 assists and 18 digs, while Alabama libero Kelsey Anderson had 14 digs. Calli Johnson hit .545 on her 11 swings, while tying Sarah Machen with four blocks. Junior Hannah Lawing led the Gamecocks (9-3, 1-2 SEC) with 16 kills, 13 digs and three aces, her eighth double-double of the season. Junior Megan Laughlin hit .400 while getting 14 kills and a team-high four blocks. Freshman Christina Glover played very well, posting 10 kills in just her fifth career match on a .381 hitting percentage. Senior Sarah Cline had 17 digs for the Gamecocks, while setter Bridget Denson-Dorman had 40 assists, eight digs and three aces to tie Lawing for top honors.
“It’s disappointing to lose a match like this, but I felt like we worked hard to create some opportunities,” said Gamecock head coach Ben Somera. “Give the Alabama team some credit. Their defensive intensity picked up, and they were able to make plays in transition.”
The first set was nip and tuck, with neither team getting more than a two-point lead until very late. Alabama went on a five-point run to post a 22-19 advantage, getting two Meuth kills in the sequence. The Gamecocks would get within a point twice, but Fitterer would end the frame with a kill at 25-23. Fitterer and Meuth both had four kills in the first.
South Carolina jumped out to an 8-4 lead in the second behind a pair of early Laughlin kills. Alabama got it to 10-8 after a Frazier kill and a block from Machen and Meuth, but the Gamecocks responded with four of the next five points to make it 14-9. A four-point run pushed the Garnet and Black’s advantage to 19-11, with Glover landing back-to-back kills. A service error by the Tide ended the frame at 25-14. The Gamecocks hit .364 in the second, with Laughlin getting four kills.
The third set was much like the second, with smaller runs posting the Gamecocks to a 9-4 lead. Sophomore Teresa Stenlund made a pair of kills in the early going. A three-point Alabama run closed the gap to two at 9-7. South Carolina came back though, taking six of the next seven points, with aces from Denson-Dorman and junior Jordan Bradosky helping the cause. Alabama could not figure out the Gamecocks’ defense the rest of the way, with two players making four attacking errors in the frame en route to the Tide hitting .086. Two Crimson Tide attacking errors ended the frame at 25-18. The Gamecocks hit .393 in the third, led by Meredith Moorhead’s .600 (3-0-5) and Lawing’s .500 (4-0-8).
South Carolina held the advantage in the fourth set for a while, grabbing an 11-7 lead after a block by Lawing and Stenlund and a kill by Lawing. But Alabama chipped away, finally taking control when it won eight of nine points to make it 22-18 in favor of the visitors. Frazier had three kills and an ace in the span. The Gamecocks did not give up, getting within two at 23-21 after a Denson-Dorman dump and a Lawing kill. Meuth gave the Tide the chance at set point, but South Carolina staved off elimination for a while, as Moorhead brought the Gamecocks to within one while an Alabama hitting error knotted things at 24-24. But the Crimson Tide bounced back with a kill from Fitterer before a Gamecock hitting error ended the frame in Alabama’s favor, 26-24. Alabama hit .361 in the fourth, led by Frazier’s six kills.
Alabama’s momentum continued in the fifth, with the Tide staking a 6-1 lead early behind two blocks and three Meuth kills. South Carolina slowly worked their way back in, closing the gap to one at 8-7 after a pair of Laughlin kills and a Glover unassisted point. The Crimson Tide got the advantage back on a Frazier kill and a Gamecock error. Laughlin kept it close at 10-8, but the Tide would get a pair of Frazier kills and a Schmidt ace to give themselves some breathing room. The squads traded points till the end, with Frazier getting one last ace to hand Alabama the 15-9 fifth set win. Alabama hit .450 in the frame, making just one attacking error.
South Carolina had a better hitting percentage (.290-.231) while also winning the ace (8-7) and dig (58-53) categories. Alabama took the kills (63-58), assists (61-53) and blocks (8.0-6.0). It’s the Gamecocks’ first loss when out-hitting the opposition this year.
The Carolina Gamecocks host Mississippi State on Sunday in the Volleyball Competition Facility, with the start time set for at 3 p.m. to accommodate FS South’s broadcast.