Sept. 18, 2015
COLUMBIA, S.C. – Paced by a season-best 15 kills from senior outside hitter Sarah Blomgren, South Carolina made quick work of East Carolina Friday night in the Carolina Volleyball Center. The Gamecocks won 3-0 (25-22, 25-14, 25-8) to snap their four-match losing streak and move to 5-5 for the season, while the Pirates slip to 6-3.
Blomgren helped the team get a lead right from the jump, connecting on her first four attacks and an early 5-1 advantage. The Gamecocks would not be able to get the big run and pull away in the first set, and ECU hung in striking range before ultimately tying the set up at 21 apiece. Kills from Dessaa Legros and Darian Dozier out of a South Carolina timeout would give the home side a lead it would never give back, and Blomgren fittingly would end it with her sixth kill of the frame.
A total team effort would give Carolina a big momentum shift in the second set, as an early back-and-forth quickly gave way to a 9-2 run and a 15-6 lead. Three different Gamecocks recorded a kill in that stretch, and Joely Cabrera added a pair of aces off her jump serve. Even when the ECU defense was able to pop up Cabrera’s serves, it was unable to get clean looks on offense and a pair of blocks would fuel the pivotal run. The teams went into the break with Carolina up 2-0, 25-14 in the set.
“When we serve tough, we have a pretty big block,” head coach Scott Swanson said. “We’ve been working on that all week ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢’Â¬” the importance of getting the other team out of system. We knew they had good middle attackers and we didn’t want them to run them very much and they didn’t get to.”
There would be no cooling off for the Gamecocks, who came out swinging in the third set. Four straight attack errors from the Pirates would quickly be followed by four straight kills from the home side and a 15-2 opening run could only be stopped by a TV timeout. East Carolina scratched the next three points before South Carolina closed out the set with a 10-3 answer.
Koko Atoa-Williams recorded a pair of service aces in that final stretch and freshman setter Madison Borowski enjoyed her first action of the season leading the offense. Borowski went to a reliable source to pick up her first career assist, connecting with Legros before adding another later with Elizabeth Johnbull. Cabrera’s slippery serve would end the match, with the junior libero posting a season-best third ace.
A 9-2 run early in the second set got the CVC crowd rocking and helped turn a 6-4 Gamecock lead into a 15-6 advantage in a set the team would ultimately win 25-14. Four different players contributed to the outburst, including back-to-back aces from Joely Cabrera.
Sarah Blomgren hit a career-best .609 for the match, with 15 kills. Her kill total is just two off her career high of 17, which was recorded during a four-set match against Georgia last season.
– Carolina is now 3-1 at home
– The Gamecocks improved to 26-1 in home tournament play during the Swanson era.
– Dessaa Legros finished with 12 kills in just 18 swings and also recorded the third solo block of her career. Her .444 hitting percentage is a new season-best.
– Koko Atoa-Williams’ two aces are a career best for the junior. She had just two total through the first nine matches (29 sets) of the season and recorded both in the third set Friday.
– A crowd of 1,365 packed the Carolina Volleyball Center Friday night. For the team’s four home matches this season, it averages 1,414.
– The match against East Carolina was the tenth meeting all-time between the regional rivals, with the Gamecocks now leading 8-2. The last meeting came way back in November of 1983, which was also a 3-0 win for Carolina.
South Carolina head coach Scott Swanson
“It all starts with how we pass, and we gave Aubrey (Ezell) a lot of good opportunities to set different players. Our middles were drawing the block and she was being smart and setting it outside and setting it back. She was going with the hot hitters which is what we’ve been telling her to do. A junior (Legros) and senior (Blomgren) led us tonight and for them to hit .444 and .609 against a pretty physical team says a lot. That’s impressive, so I’m excited about that. We ran a good program and we did what we practiced, which makes coaches feel good.”
Tweet of the Match
– Michael Sullivan (@mikesullivan08) September 19, 2015
The team will close out the Carolina Classic tomorrow with a pair of matches. First up will be a 1 p.m. meeting with Charleston Southern before the nightcap against Wofford at 7 p.m. In the first match of the tournament, Wofford erased a 2-0 Charleston Southern lead to win 3-2.