Gamecocks Open Key Weekend With Convincing Sweep of Tennessee
Robinson and Shields combined for 23 kills in the home win
COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina volleyball (12-8, 4-4 SEC) kicked off an important three-game home stand with a strong performance Friday night, sweeping Tennessee (9-10, 3-6 SEC), 25-15, 30-28, 25-16. Mikayla Robinson (11 kills) and Mikayla Shields (12) led the offense, and the defense blocked 10 attacks to hold the Volunteers (9-10, 3-6 SEC) to their lowest hitting percentage since 2015.
SET ONE: The Gamecocks’ best defense was their serving game in set one; on top of three aces against them, Tennessee was unable to stay in-system offensively and hit just .067 with nine kills on the way to a 25-15 decision. Claire Edwards set the tone behind the service line early, the senior dropped in two aces in an early 5-0 run that pushed the team ahead 8-2. With an easier transition game from Tennessee’s struggles, South Carolina’s offense was able to convert for an efficient game. Led by four kills from Shields, the Gamecocks hit .379 with just one attack error.
SET TWO: Tennessee came off the mat strong in set two, and held a big lead late before the Gamecocks were able to claw back in and steal the win beyond 25 points. The Volunteers took a modest 15-13 lead into the media timeout, but ran off five of the next six points after the break to take command of the set. Coming out of a called timeout, South Carolina rallied back thanks to some big swings from freshman McKenzie Moorman off the bench, but still faced three set points early after Tennessee pushed the lead out to 24-21.
A kill from Shields denied the first set point opportunity, and Lauren Bowers pressured Tennessee with her serve and induced a pair of blocks and an overpass that Jess Vastine killed, suddenly putting the Gamecocks in position to win at 25-24. The two teams traded opportunities to clinch the win – Tennessee had another chance at 26-25 – but the Gamecocks were able to finally get the win after a dump kill from setter Courtney Koehler and a scrambling transition kill from Robinson to ice the 30-28 final.
SET THREE: South Carolina rode the wave of momentum from set two’s comeback, and rolled to a 25-16 win that closed out the match. The Gamecocks out-hit Tennessee .387 to .059 in the set, as the Vols committed seven unblocked attacking errors. Robinson led the offense with four kills on just five swings, and also added a solo block. Mikayla Shields’ strong topspin jump-serve keyed an early 8-1 run that pushed the Gamecocks out to a 10-4 lead, and the team never looked back from there.
- This is Mikayla Robinson’s seventh match with double-digit kills so far this season. The junior had just eight all last season. Robinson has hit under .400 just once in those seven matches with 10 or more kills, and has three matches with 12 or more attacks and a hitting percentage .600 or better.
- Mikayla Shields moved up to eighth in the program’s rally-scoring era for career solo blocks (with 36). She now has 18 total blocks in the last four matches (1.28 per set), after recording just 25 through the first 16 matches (0.42/set).
- With 17 more digs against Tennessee, Addie Bryant enters Sunday with 111 digs in six October matches. The senior libero is averaging 5.55 digs per set during that span.
- In the team’s last two matches, freshman McKenzie Moorman has eight kills and four total blocks over three sets off the bench.
- Tennessee’s .088 hitting percentage is the team’s lowest since Nov. 25, 2015 – a span of 109 matches.
QUOTABLE: HEAD COACH TOM MENDOZA
On the team comeback win in the second
“Successful teams are going to have to win sets that are close or they’re behind, it’s great to have that in our back pocket as something we can point to if we’re down in another set late… (McKenzie Moorman) was able to come in and really bring some aggressiveness and it’s great to see, especially from a younger player, to not have that fear.”
NEXT UP: The team welcomes in Alabama for a 1 p.m. match on Sunday. It will air nationally on ESPNU, with Courtney Lyle (PxP) and Jenny Hazelwood (Color) on the call. The Crimson Tide lost in three sets at Florida Friday night, and enter Sunday with an 11-8 overall record and 3-5 mark in conference play.