Aug. 27, 2010
by Koby Padgett
Assistant Media Relations Director
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – South Carolina dropped its first volleyball match of 2010 at the State Farm Illini Classic, falling 25-23, 25-12, 25-23 to Middle Tennessee State in the event’s opening contest at Huff Hall on the campus of the University of Illinois.
Senior libero Hannah Lawing led all players with 14 digs, while senior Megan Laughlin had nine kills and two solo blocks for the Gamecocks. Freshman Paige Wheeler added nine digs and three kills from the back row, and freshman Cara Howley led the squad with a .267 hitting percentage (5-1-15) in her first collegiate match. Middle Tennessee saw Izabela Kozon lead the way with 10 kills, six coming in the final frame. Stacy Oladinni had eight kills and four block assists on the night. Morgan Peterson had 31 assists and 11 digs for the Blue Raiders, while libero Brynne Henderson had 11 digs.
The Gamecocks lost the first set, 25-23, despite a late comeback attempt. It was 14-8 at one point, as the Blue Raiders benefited from four early service errors by South Carolina. The Gamecocks got it back to three at 14-11 thanks to a three-point swing keyed by a solo block from Laughlin. A pair of kills by Maria Szivos around a kill from Oladinni put Middle Tennessee back up by six at 19-13 before the Gamecocks started clawing back into the frame. Eight of the next 11 points went to South Carolina, making it 22-21 for the Blue Raiders. MTSU took back the advantage on an Oladinni kill, and the teams traded points to end the set. Laughlin had four kills for the Gamecocks, while Howley hit .600 on three kills.
Middle Tennessee ran away with the second set, 25-12. The Blue Raiders had three four-point runs and three three-point skeins in the frame, compared to one three-point string for the Gamecocks. Wheeler had a good set, putting away three kills from the back row. Lawing made eight digs in the frame as well. However, the Middle Tennessee defense frustrated the Gamecocks, holding them to a -.028 hitting percentage.
South Carolina took an early lead in the third, holding it till 11-9. However, MTSU comes back to take seven of eight points to turn it into a 16-12 Blue Raider lead. The Gamecocks got it to within one at 17-16, but the Blue Raiders took four of the next five to make it 21-17 and force South Carolina to use its final timeout. The Garnet and Black responded, making it a one-point difference after taking four of five points back. Back-to-back kills from Laughlin tied it at 23-23, but Kozon hammered a kill ahead of Lindsay Cheatham’s solo block to end the set and match, 25-23. Christina Glover posted four digs and a pair of kills in the frame, while Laughlin had four kills.
The Blue Raiders held advantages in every category, including a 6-2 edge in blocks and a 41-33 lead in kills.
South Carolina plays twice on the final day of the State Farm Illini Classic, facing host and No. 6 Illinois in the first match at 10:30 a.m CDT before closing the stay in Champaign with a 4:30 p.m. match against BYU.