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Sept. 29, 2013

Final Stats

Coach Swanson

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The South Carolina volleyball team picked up its first SEC win of the season on Sunday as it defeated Tennessee in four sets at Thompson-Boling Arena by the scores of 25-18, 17-25, 25-20 and 25-23.

The win is the Gamecocks’ (9-5, 1-1 SEC) first over Tennessee since Oct. 10, 2008 and it’s their first in Knoxville since Nov. 8, 2002.

“It was incredible,” South Carolina head coach Scott Swanson said. “Our kids played their hearts out, and we executed the game plan. We had some freshmen step up and do some really nice things. We were just consistent and didn’t make a lot of errors. Hats off to everybody. I thought everybody played really, really well.”

A fifth set seemed to be on the horizon, as South Carolina trailed 16-11 in the fourth set. However, the Gamecocks regrouped and went on a 7-1 run that included three blocks to take an 18-17 lead. South Carolina expanded its lead to four points before Tennessee (8-7, 0-1) scrapped back and pulled to within 24-23 on a Gamecock attack error. But sophomore Darian Dozier finished off a set by sophomore Kellie McNeil for a kill to give South Carolina a 25-23 win to clinch the match.

Blocking played a key role in South Carolina coming home with a win as it out-blocked the Lady Vols 13-8. The Gamecocks recorded seven blocks in the fourth set alone.

“That’s key for us,” Swanson said. “If we can be physical at the net and cause teams to tip and hit at our defenders, then we can be a good fast-paced transition team. It was the key to the match in my opinion.”

The Gamecocks also finished the match with an edge in kills (53-50), hitting percentage (.189-.158) and assists (51-48). Senior outside hitter Juliette Thévenin and McNeil each recorded their third double-double of the season to lead the way. Thévenin tallied 23 kills and a season-high 16 digs, while McNeil distributed 41 assists and a career-high 20 digs. A native of Eagan, Minn., McNeil also led the team with a career-high seven blocks, including two solo blocks. Freshman outside hitter Dessaa Legros contributed a career-high 12 kills, while Dozier finished with nine kills and six blocks. Freshman middle blocker Jacqy Angermiller chipped in five kills and five blocks, and junior libero Michaela Christiaansen finished with 19 digs.

Freshman outside hitter Jamie Lea led Tennessee with 13 kills, while senior outside hitter Whitney Heeres and freshman middle Ashley Mariani contributed 12 and 10 kills, respectively. Sophomore setter Lexi Dempsey dished out 42 assists for the Lady Vols, and senior libero Ellen Mullins collected 26 digs.

After the teams played to a 7-7 tie in the first set, the Gamecocks took control, going on a 5-1 run capped by a Thévenin kill to take a 12-8 lead. South Carolina pushed its lead to 19-10 before Tennessee went on an 8-3 run to pull to within 22-18. However, the Gamecocks scored the next three points on Thévenin kills to win the set 25-18. Thévenin finished with seven kills in the set. South Carolina hit .306 as a team while holding Tennessee to a .216 hitting percentage.

The second set went back and forth early, playing to a 5-5 tie. Tennessee took a 6-5 lead on a South Carolina service error and never relinquished that lead. The Gamecocks remained in the set and trailed 17-16 late after Thévenin delivered her 12th kill of the match, but the Lady Vols closed out the game on an 8-1 run to even the match a 1-1. South Carolina hit .122 for the set, while Tennessee finished with a .282 hitting percentage.

South Carolina bounced back nicely in the third set, outhitting the Lady Vols .257-.073. The teams played to a 6-6 tie early on before the Gamecocks went on an 11-5 run capped by a block by McNeil and Angermiller to take control of the set. South Carolina led by as many as eight points and didn’t allow Tennessee to pull closer than four the rest of the way, as Angermiller came through with a kill to win the set 25-20.

Tennessee seemed to have taken momentum back as it built a 16-11 lead in the fourth set, but the Gamecocks outscored the Lady Vols 14-7 the rest of the way to close out the match. Thévenin and Legros finished the set with six and four kills, respectively, while McNeil recorded four blocks.

The Gamecocks will return to action at home next weekend and will face Arkansas on Friday at 7 p.m. and Texas A&M on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. at the Volleyball Competition Facility.