South Carolina Outlasts Maryland in Five-Set Thriller
Three Gamecocks go for double-doubles in the win
COLUMBIA, S.C. – There would be 41 ties and 20 lead changes before the dust finally settled on a 3-2 win over Maryland for South Carolina volleyball Friday night. The Gamecocks (6-4) used a full team effort to pull out the win, with stellar performances from Jess Vastine (16 kills, 13 digs), Mikayla Shields (15 kills, 11 digs) and Addie Bryant (20 digs) setting the tone for the dramatic win over the Terrapins (6-4).
SET ONE: The Gamecocks would be their own worst enemy in the opening game, dropping a 25-21 decision despite a sizable advantage in kills. The team bested Maryland 15-9 in the category, but the Terps played clean and benefited from a myriad of unforced errors from the home side. South Carolina would lose seven points in the serve game, giving up three aces while also committing four errors on serve, but also had a pair of ball-handling errors and six unforced attack errors. Maryland built an early lead at 15-9 and would not relinquish the lead from that point on. A pair of Gamecock runs cut into that deficit, but Maryland closed the set with a 4-1 burst for the final margin. Vastine started her big night right off the bat, recording five kills on seven swings with four digs in the game.
SET TWO: The second game began to set the tone of what would be a frenetic match, but the Gamecocks were able to prevail with a 25-23 win to even the match thanks to the efforts of Bryant and the back line of the defense. There would be 14 ties and eight lead changes in the second, and it appeared late that Maryland was able to pull out a coveted run for a 22-19 lead. The Terps would ultimately commit six service errors in the set, and the sixth may have been the costliest. The error keyed a 6-1 run for South Carolina to close out the set, with Mikayla Shields serving out five straight points to cap the desperately needed win. Britt McLean provided two big kills in that run, and the defense’s 18th dig of the set helped Mikayla Robinson put away the kill for a win to even the match.
SET THREE: The third game would be the wildest of the night, featuring 18 ties and eight more lead changes before the Gamecocks pulled it out in extra time, 27-25. The Gamecock offense was chugging along, out-hitting Maryland .455 to .219 in the set, but six errors behind the service line for Carolina stifled its chances at extended runs. Three different hitters would post four or more kills in the game, led by Vastine’s six, but Maryland was able to weather the offensive barrage from the home side and would serve for the game’s first set point at 24-23 after neither side could muster more than a one-point advantage down the stretch from a 15-all tie. A Mikayla Shields kill denied the Terrapins the first set point, but a service error for Carolina put the visitors in a favorable spot again. Maryland would not be able to capitalize, committing a service error of its own, and a Shields ace put the Gamecocks in the driver’s seat. Coming out of a Maryland timeout, McLean put home her fifth kill of the ser to clinch the 27-25 win and a 2-1 lead.
SET FOUR: Looking to stave off elimination, Maryland’s defense locked in for the fourth set and came away with another 25-21 decision to even the match at 2-2. The Terrapins held South Carolina to by far its lowest hitting percentage of the night – .182 – thanks to three blocks and a strong back line defense, jumped out to a 7-2 lead in the set and never looked back. Addie Bryant and the back row passers posted a match-high 19 digs in the set, but the offense would be unable to transition those digs into kills and the Gamecocks now would stare down their second five-set affair in the last three matches.
SET FIVE: It was the South Carolina defense’s turn to shine in the final game, and it came through in a big way, holding Maryland to just five total kills and a .077 hitting percentage to pull away late in a 15-12 win. The two teams jockeyed for an early advantage, and it would be the Terrapins that found the first multi-point lead at 10-8. Following a Gamecock timeout, though, Courtney Koehler served the team a 4-0 run that would swing the momentum and get Carolina out front for good. Mikayla Robinson stepped up defensively when the team needed her most, providing two blocks in that 4-0 run, and the Gamecocks moved to 3-0 in five-set matches this season with the win.
QUOTABLE: HEAD COACH TOM MENDOZA
UP NEXT: The team has two matches on Sunday to wrap up the non-conference season. First is a noon first serve against Kennesaw State (7-3), followed in the evening with a 6 p.m. match against High Point.