South Carolina Outlasts Texas A&M for Key Road Win
The Gamecocks had never won at Texas A&M entering the match
COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS – In a season already reaching into uncharted territory, another first was claimed by South Carolina volleyball Friday night. The Gamecocks defeated Texas A&M in five sets to earn their first win on the road in the all-time series with the Aggies. South Carolina is now 18-6 overall and 9-5 in the SEC. Hard-luck Texas A&M falls to 13-13, 6-8 in the SEC, with five of its last seven matches ending in 3-2 losses.
SET 1: The Gamecocks made a little history in the opening game, winning 25-19 to claim its first set ever at Texas A&M. After being swept the previous five meetings, the team came out strong and rode the arm of Mikayla Shields’ five kills to get the win. A 4-0 run early in the set put the Gamecocks ahead 6-3, and they were able to string out the modest advantage before a second run would put the set out of reach. Behind the serve of Courtney Koehler, South Carolina went on a 6-0 run that left the visitors with a 17-9 advantage. The Aggies would cut as close to two, 20-18, down the stretch, but the Gamecocks scored five of the next six points from there to close it out.
SET 2: The home side would rally back for a marathon second game, and pulled out a 29-27 win to even the match. South Carolina jumped ahead early again, opening with a 9-4 lead. Texas A&M went on an 8-2 run from there to swing the score in its favor and forced a Gamecock timeout at 12-11, Aggies. The set would be tight from there on, as Carolina fought back for a brief 15-13 lead but A&M would quickly retake it. Neither side would lead by more than two points for the rest of the set, with 10 ties and five lead changes from the 15-13 point in the set. South Carolina would have set point at 24-23, 26-25 and 27-26 but were denied. The Aggies were able to get back-to-back kills to have their own set point, and a Gamecock attack error would close out the game.
SET 3: Texas A&M scored the opening point of the set, but South Carolina followed with seven-straight points to force the Aggies into a quick timeout. The run continued out of the timeout thanks to the strong service of Courtney Koehler, and finally came to a halt after 13 points in a row. The home side chipped away at the sizable lead and were able to work it back to single digits, but weren’t able to threaten in a 25-15 final. Koehler finished with three aces in the set, which was her career high for a match coming into the night. Offensively, Brittany McLean went 4-for-4 on her swings, and Shields added four more in the set.
SET 4: Another game went beyond 25 points in the third, as the Gamecocks squandered a late lead and dropped a 29-27 fourth to tie the match again. The Aggies led 11-6 early, but the Gamecocks worked it back to take a 16-15 lead. They’d expand to a 24-21 lead before costly miscues brought the home team back from the brink. After allowing A&M to get back to 24-all, Carolina also had match point at 25-24, 26-25 and 27-26 but still could not close it out. A service error and back-to-back attack errors for South Carolina gave the home team the 29-27 win to tie the match again.
SET 5: The team came out firing after a disappointing end to the fourth, scoring the first four points of the set to force Texas A&M to call timeout. Mikayla Shields had two kills and a block in those first four points. The Gamecocks would carry an 8-1 lead into the switchover. Shields’ counterpart on the attack, Mikayla Robinson, would also be a key factor and the pair accounted for nine of the team’s first 10 points and six of the team’s nine total kills in the fifth. South Carolina built its lead out to 14-3 and weathered another Aggie run to close out the 15-8 win to take the match.
- Now winners of three straight, this is the first time in 12 years that the team has a win streak of three matches or more in the month of November.
- Thanks to two more aces Friday, Aubrey Ezell now has the most aces in a single season by any SEC student-athlete over the last 10 seasons (59).
- With 47 assists, Courtney Koehler moved up to 10th for most in a single season during the rally-scoring era.
- For a single game, Koehler’s six aces are a new career high. She entered the night with a career high of three, but would total three aces in the third set alone. It’s the most in a single match by any Gamecock since Aubrey Ezell’s seven on Aug. 31 at Rice.
- With 14 more kills and a .423 hitting percentage, Mikayla Robinson continues a recent hot streak. The sophomore is hitting .372 with 48 kills over the last five matches.
- The back-line defense was led by the duo of Jess Vastine and Aubrey Ezell. The pair accounted for 41 of the team’s 76 total digs. It was the first time this season that the Gamecocks had two different players with 20 or more digs in a match.
- Now with nine wins, this is the fourth time since 2001 that the team will finish with a conference record .500 or better.
STAT OF THE MATCH: The net defense for South Carolina was pivotal, as it out-blocked Texas A&M 13-4. It was the most in a single match since Sept. 30 at Georgia, and helped hold the Aggies to a .110 hitting percentage. It’s the fourth time this SEC season where the defense held the opposition to under .150. The biggest blocks came to open the decisive fifth set, as Mikayla Robinson blocked three balls to spark the emphatic win.
UP NEXT: With no Sunday match, the team will have a full week before its next match. South Carolina will host Ole Miss on Nov. 16 for a 7 p.m. match that will also be senior night. The Gamecocks will honor its five-woman senior class – Callie Brown, Aubrey Ezell, Courtney Furlong, Emma Lock and Jesse Turner – prior to first serve with the Rebels.