Sept. 15, 2017
CLEMSON, S.C. – South Carolina started its weekend at the Clemson Challenge Friday afternoon with a 3-0 sweep of Georgia Southern (2-5). The Gamecocks used a balanced offense and a high-energy defense to cruise to the 25-17, 25-19, 25-21 decision and move to 6-4 this season. Three different Gamecocks led the way with nine kills apiece, including a career day for freshman Jess Vastine.
SET 1: The Gamecocks broke out with an early run to begin the match, as Alicia Starr and Courtney Koehler served the team into a 8-1 run that broke a 7-all tie. Big blocking keyed that run, with Mikayla Robinson teaming up with three different teammates to put down blocks on three-straight points. Coming out of a timeout, she’d get a fourth block to make it 14-8, and the Eagles would get no closer than four points the rest of the way. Vastine led the offense with three kills, and the Gamecocks as a team hit .462.
SET 2: Carolina fell into bad habits early in the second, ceding its momentum from the first set and allowing Georgia Southern to take a commanding 10-5 lead. Starr and Koehler again would provide the key tough service needed to get the Eagles offense out of its comfort zone, and it helped spark an 8-2 run that gave the Gamecocks their first lead of the game, 13-12. Aubrey Ezell stepped up to add to the run soon after, as she put down back-to-back aces to make it 16-14. With the team up 17-16, Vastine scored three of the next four Gamecock points off the attack, and the freshman added an ace to put the game out of reach late in the 25-19 win.
SET 3: Defensive hustle ensured that the game would end in three sets, South Carolina allowed just nine kills to Georgia Southern in the third. The Gamecock back line, led by Ezell and Mikayla Shields, dug up 18 balls in the game to stifle the Eagles. Though GSU did not make many errors in the third, it was a key stretch of three-straight missed attacks that cost them, breaking up a 9-9 tie to give Carolina a lead it would not give back. GSU got back within three points, 22-19, but a pair of kills from Shields put the set to rest.
Stat of the Match
The Gamecocks did a great job of controlling the ball on defense, out-digging the Eagles 40-25 for the match. Though Georgia Southern committed just one more attack error than South Carolina, the Gamecocks enjoyed a .304 to .133 advantage in hitting percentage thanks to an active defensive back line.
- With two more aces Friday, Aubrey Ezell now has 18 aces in her last 16 sets played.
- Mikayla Shields’ two solo blocks match a personal best.
- Courtney Koehler had perhaps her most well-rounded match of the year, as the sophomore passed out 30 assists, dug up 11 balls and had five kills on eight attempts with zero errors.
- Alicia Starr hit .389 for the match, marking her sixth match this season with eight or more kills and a hitting percentage above .300.
Quotable: Head Coach Scott Swanson
On the performance of Jess Vastine
“She did an awesome job. She’s steadying out as a passer, she’s always been steady as a defender, and as far as her hitting percentage today she blew it upÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ she was low error and blocked well. I made a conscious decision to play that same lineup all week and let her work it out and she’s got her confidence back and she’s the player that we recruited right now.”
Tomorrow will be a test of endurance for the team, as it has two matches to wrap up the Clemson Challenge. First is a morning match with Texas Tech at 10 a.m. The Red Raiders come into the weekend at 8-2 and played Clemson Friday night. Tomorrow at 7 p.m. will bring the annual rivalry match with the host Tigers. The meeting will air online through WatchESPN.