Sept. 17, 2016
COLUMBIA, S.C. — The South Carolina volleyball team ended the non-conference season with a pair of wins Saturday to close out the Gamecock Invitational, running its season record to 12-0. The Gamecocks beat William & Mary (6-7) in four sets and swept Gardner-Webb (8-5).
Mikayla Shields earned tournament MVP after totaling 21 in the two Saturday matches and 40 for the weekend. Dessaa Legros (24 total kills) and Abreia Epps (21 total kills) joined her on the all-tournament team.
In the early matchup with William & Mary, South Carolina was in a battle with a Tribe defense that had a stellar night with ball control. Dessaa Legros helped stake the team to a 1-0 lead after her five kills clinched a 25-21 decision. The Tribe held a 21-20 lead late, but two kills from Legros and a kill and ace from Koko Atoa-Williams sealed the win.
In the second set, Atoa-Williams joined with Epps to help Carolina put its foot on the gas. The lead was traded back and forth early, but after Atoa-Williams took over serve in a 16-all game, the tide quickly turned. She keyed what ended up being a 7-0 run, and the Gamecocks cruised down the stretch for a 25-18 win.
William & Mary rallied to win the third set 25-21, and were in great position to push it all the way to five sets before Carolina got a spark late in the fourth. The Tribe led for almost the entire first half of the set, and pushed ahead 19-16 late. Out of a timeout, South Carolina used a 4-0 run to take a brief lead, then traded points up until a 22-all tie. Kill from Shields and Alicia Starr gave Carolina some breathing room, and the Gamecocks clinched the win off a service error, 25-23.
In the nightcap, the Gamecocks saw a full team effort lead the way to victory. Aubrey Ezell got things rolling right from the first whistle, as she served up three aces and a 9-0 run before the fans could even find their seats. Carolina ran away with the 25-10 win in the first set, and were able to work in key reserves to close out the match.
The team leaned on Courtney McKeag, Courtney Furlong and Jesse Turner in the second set, and Turner ended that game with three kills on four swings. Atoa-Williams pitched in five more kills on just six swings, and Carolina went up 2-0 behind a 25-13 decision.
Capping the weekend, South Carolina worked in Claire Edwards, Savannah Murray and Callie Brown for the third set, and all three were key contributors. Edwards had four kills on four swings and Brown celebrated her birthday with two kills in the set. Despite some new faces on the floor, the offense chugged along to the tune of a .520 hitting percentage in the third set, closing the sweep with a 25-15 win.
Stat of the Weekend
South Carolina’s offense was in a groove all weekend, and finished with a team hitting percentage of .368 over the three matches.
- Shields finished the weekend with just five errors on 65 swings, leading the team with 40 kills.
- Aubrey Ezell had three aces in the first set alone in the Gardner-Webb match, and ended the weekend with seven aces total to push her season total to 26 (0.62 per set).
- Gardner-Webb finished with just 38 total points in the match Saturday night. It is the first time since Aug. 30 of 2013 the South Carolina held an opponent to under 40 points in a match (S.C. State).
- With losses from Dayton, Kansas, Santa Clara, Illinois-Chicago and UNLV this weekend, the Gamecocks are one of just five undefeated teams left in Division I.
Quotable: Head Coach Scott Swanson
On the strong weekend from the team’s outside hitters
” I feel like our athletes just did what they were capable of doing. Abreia finally started connecting a little bit better with Courtney Koehler on the back side… we got some things ironed out this weekend and she hit for well over .300 in every set she played, she’s just a high-jumping, hard-hitting right side. Dessaa Legros is just getting better and better and more and more control. She’s hitting the ball in when it’s not optimal, she’s crushing it when it’s good, she’s doing a good job blocking, she’s a good leader on the court and another person outside hitting over .300 in three matches, which is hard to do. Then we have our freshman (Shields) who, somehow, no one can stop her. She had 40 kills on the weekend, she hit .538 in three matches and that’s pretty hard to do on an open net.”
All records go out the window as conference action gets underway. The Gamecocks open SEC play on Wednesday night at Missouri. The Tigers swept Carolina in the last meeting between the two teams, and Missouri enters conference play with a 9-3 overall record. The match is scheduled for 9 p.m. Wednesday night, airing nationally on ESPNU.