Gamecocks Drop Road Match at Rice
The team couldn't overcome an early 2-0 deficit, losing its first match of the season
HOUSTON, TEXAS – Rice handed the volleyball team its first loss of the season Friday night, downing the Gamecocks 3-1. South Carolina hurt themselves on offense with high error counts in the opening two sets, and were unable to dig out of the early hole despite a strong rally. Mikayla Shields led the offense with 18 kills, Aubrey Ezell had 17 digs and a career-high seven aces in the losing effort.
SET 1: The Gamecocks were playing catchup throughout the opening game, showing the ability to side-out but not keeping serve long enough for the key run. The Owls would not yield the lead after the Gamecocks opened the scoring in the set, and ran off five-straight points at the end of the game for the 25-18 win and a 1-0 lead.
SET 2: Game two would be neck-and-neck through the first 20 combined points, but the Owls reeled off a big run to take it from there. A 13-0 stretch, punctuated by five unforced errors from South Carolina, put Rice ahead 2-0 behind the 25-12 victory. All told, the Gamecocks committed seven attack errors with just six total kills, while Rice countered with a .526 hitting percentage and 12 kills on the other side of the net.
SET 3: South Carolina pulled itself off the mat in a big way in the third, storming its way to a 25-11 win to cut Rice’s lead to 2-1. The change came through the serve game, where five Gamecock aces and consistent pressure on the Owls’ serve-receive game limited the home side to just six kills in the set. Aubrey Ezell went for three aces in the game – one of five total for Carolina – and her service sparked a set-defining 7-0 run that broke the team out to an 18-9 lead in the must-win game.
SET 4: It would be a wild fourth set, as the Gamecocks scrambled to keep their comeback hopes alive. All told, there would be ten ties and four lead changes, but Rice would lead last in a 26-24 win to close the match. Neither team would command a lead larger than three points at any point in the set, and South Carolina leaned on the arm of Shields as its offense’s anchor. The junior put away seven kills in the set, but some close calls late went Rice’s way and the home side used a Carolina service error and a big block to break a 24-all tie and end the match.
- Mikayla Shields rebounded from an off match against Liberty to lead the offense Friday night. Her 18 kills and 11 digs marked her second double-double of the season and 18thof her career. That moves her past Shonda Cole in the career total and up to 19thin program history.
- Ezell’s seven aces are a new personal best for the rally-scoring era leader for the category. The senior had at least two aces in the three of the four games Friday. The only Gamecocks in the modern era with more aces in a match of any length is Cally Plummer (10/10/2001) and Megan Hosp (9/7/2002), who had eight.
- Claire Edwards led the team with seven total blocks, matching her career high set against North Florida last season.
QUOTABLE: TOM MENDOZA
“It’s pretty clear that this group has talent and potential, but our success will be determined by our ability to put in complete team performances. We did a great job of that in front of our home crowd last weekend, but we struggled finding that today on the road. We had a few individual performances today but that’s not a sustainable recipe for success. We’ll aim to respond with a better team effort tomorrow against a good Houston Baptist team.”
UP NEXT:The team’s weekend in Texas ends Saturday afternoon with a 2:30 p.m. ET match against Houston Baptist. The Huskies went 0-1 on Friday, losing to Liberty.