Nov. 9, 2014
COLUMBIA, S.C. — The South Carolina volleyball team battled back from a two-set deficit to force a fifth set on Sunday against Alabama, but the Crimson Tide held on in the decisive set to win the match by the scores of 25-23, 25-22, 24-26, 21-25 and 15-10 in front of a crowd of 1,645 at the Carolina Volleyball Center.
With the loss, the Gamecocks drop to 15-10 on the season and 5-7 in the SEC. Alabama improves to 20-6 overall and 8-4 in the conference.
After Alabama claimed the first two sets, the Gamecocks avoided the sweep, fighting back and forth with the Crimson Tide in a third set that saw 17 ties and seven lead changes. Carolina had set point at 24-22 late in the set, but Alabama’s Kat Hutson delivered back-to-back kills to tie it up at 24-24. However, the Gamecocks responded, as junior middle blocker Darian Dozier and freshman outside hitter Taylr McNeil produced kills to score the next two points to give Carolina a 26-24 win. The Gamecocks had their best offensive effort of the match in the set, outhitting Alabama .360-.310 with 10 kills and just one attack error on 25 attempts.
In the fourth set, Alabama pulled to within 18-17 on a kill by Kristal Rivers, but the Gamecocks went on a 4-1 run to push their lead to 22-18. Alabama was unable to pull closer than two points the rest of the way, as Carolina held the Crimson Tide to an .028 hitting percentage for the set.
The Crimson Tide jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the fifth set, but Carolina didn’t back down, answering with a 4-0 run of its own capped by a McNeil kill to tie the set at 4-4. However, Alabama used a 7-2 run to build an 11-6 lead it would not relinquish as it went on to clinch the match with a 15-10 win.
Sophomore KoKo Atoa-Williams recorded her team-leading eighth double-double of the season to pace Carolina on Sunday, finishing with 14 kills, 12 digs and four blocks. Junior right side Sarah Blomgren added 13 kills while hitting .370. Dozier finished with seven kills and five blocks, while sophomore middle Katlyn McDaniel chipped in four kills and four blocks. Junior setter Kellie McNeil distributed 25 assists and had six digs, three kills and four blocks, and freshman setter Allie Monserez chipped in 16 assists and seven digs. Sophomore defensive specialist Megan Kirkland collected a career-high 17 digs, and senior libero Mikaela Christiaansen had 12 digs.
Rivers led Alabama with a double-double, recording 29 kills, 12 digs and two blocks. Hutson tallied 26 kills while hitting .357 and three blocks. Sophomore outside hitter Brittany Thomas finished with 11 kills and 13 digs. Junior setter Sierra Wilson dished out 68 assists and had five digs, while libero Natalie Murison finished with a match-high 22 digs.
As a team, Alabama outhit the Gamecocks .236-.182 and held the advantage in kills (75-46) and digs (64-59), while Carolina out-blocked the Crimson Tide 11-8.
After South Carolina went on a 4-0 run to tie the fifth set at 4-4, Alabama used a 7-2 run, including a pair of kills by Rivers, to build an 11-6 lead. The Gamecocks were unable to pull closer than three the remainder of the set.
Rivers and Hutson combined to produce 55 of Alabama’s 75 kills on the night, including seven in the fifth set.
â€¢ Atoa-Williams recorded a team-best eighth double-double of the season with 14 kills and 12 digs.
â€¢ Atoa-Williams also matched her career-high with four blocks.
â€¢ Kirkland recorded a career-high 17 digs.
â€¢ The Gamecocks out-blocked the Crimson Tide 11-8. Carolina has out-blocked its opponents in 18 of 25 matches this season.
â€¢ The crowd of 1,645 is the 10th crowd of 1,000 or more fans in 13 home matches and is the sixth largest crowd all-time at the Carolina Volleyball Center.
South Carolina head coach Scott Swanson
“I thought our team fought extremely hard. I was really proud of that. I was disappointed for the team and the program that we didn’t win that in five because it would have been a great win. I think we learned a lot about ourselves tonight and are on our way back to playing better volleyball. They had two kids that combined for 55 kills, and we didn’t stop either one of them very well. Hats off to Alabama. They have two pretty special players in (Kat) Hutson and (Krystal) Rivers. They are doing that to everybody, so we are not alone there. They are just really good. Overall I’m pretty proud of our group for how they fought.”
The Gamecocks will play at Arkansas on Friday at 8 p.m. ET before returning home to face Auburn on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. at the Carolina Volleyball Center. Sunday’s match will be Senior Day for the Gamecocks.
Tweet of the Match
— Game Day Warrior (@GamedayWarrior) November 9, 2014