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Oct. 13, 2013

Final Stats | Photo Gallery media-icon-photogallery.gif

Coach Swanson

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Despite a valiant effort in the final two sets, the South Carolina volleyball team lost in three sets to No. 15 Kentucky on Sunday, as the Wildcats won by the scores of 25-13, 25-22 and 25-23 in front of a crowd of 1,127 at the Volleyball Competition Facility.

With the loss the Gamecocks drop to 10-8 on the season and 2-4 in SEC play. Kentucky improves to 13-4 overall and 5-1 in the conference.

South Carolina held a lead late in both the second and third sets, but the Wildcats came back each time to win. Gamecock head coach Scott Swanson praised his squad for its effort.

“They are doing what we ask them to do, and that’s to fight for every point,” Swanson said. “I couldn’t be more proud of that. Our goal is to get respect. We know we are young and are playing some teams that, physically and talent-wise, might be an overmatch for us, but I feel like anything can happen if we fight, especially with the crowds that we’ve been getting and the atmosphere in our gym. I love the energy and I love what I’m seeing from these kids. If we can make a few less mistakes at crucial times, I think we can start to turn the table on some of these teams, but that’s going to come with experience.”

The Wildcats held an advantage in kills (45-33), hitting percentage (.287-.105) and blocks (11-5), while the Gamecocks finished with an edge in digs (49-45).

Senior outside hitter Juliette Thévenin delivered a team-high nine kills and added six digs to lead South Carolina. Sophomore middle blocker Darian Dozier chipped in eight kills while hitting .385 and three block assists, while sophomore outside hitter Sarah Blomgren and freshman middle blocker Jacqy Angermiller added five kills apiece. Sophomore setter Kellie McNeil distributed 19 assists, and freshman setter Helen Récaborde tallied nine assists in her first SEC action. Junior libero Michaela Christiaansen collected a match-high 21 digs.

Senior outside hitter Whitney Billings paced Kentucky with a double-double, recording 18 kills (.484) and 10 digs. Junior outside hitter Lauren O’Conner finished with six kills, while sophomore setter Morgan Bergren contributed five kills, 40 assists, five digs and five block assists. Junior libero Jackie Napper anchored the back line for the Wildcats as she finished with 13 digs. Senior middle blocker Alexandra Morgan had a match-high six blocks and five kills in the win.

Kentucky took control of the first set early and built a 12-3 lead behind four kills from Billings. South Carolina was unable to get back into the set, as the Wildcats went on to claim a 25-13 win while hitting .464 for the set.

The Gamecocks regrouped and came out strong in the second set as they built an early 8-4 lead, with three kills from Dozier and two each from Angermiller and freshman Dessaa Legros. South Carolina held on to the lead until the Wildcats came back to tie it up at 15-15 and then took the lead on a Gamecock attack error. The Gamecocks regained the lead late at 20-19 on a Wildcat attack error, but Kentucky closed out the set on a 6-2 run to win and take a 2-0 lead.

The Wildcats led for most of the third set early on, but South Carolina settled down and fought back to tie things at 15-15 on a Kentucky attack error. The Gamecocks took their first lead of the set at 20-19, as Dozier finished off a set from Récaborde for a kill. After the Wildcats tied it at 20-20, Thévenin put South Carolina back in front with a kill. However, Kentucky outscored the Gamecocks 5-2 down the stretch to win the set and the match.

The Gamecocks will be back in action next weekend on the road. South Carolina will take on Mississippi State on Friday at 8 p.m. in Starkville, Miss., and will close out the weekend against Mississippi on Sunday at 2 p.m. in Oxford, Miss.