Gamecocks Collar the Bulldogs for Five-Set Road Win
The team heads to Auburn next, for a 2 p.m. ET match Sunday
ATHENS, GA. – South Carolina volleyball avenged an early season loss to Georgia (19-8, 11-5) with a five-set win in Athens Friday night, 19-25, 25-23, 25-19, 17-25, 15-13. The Gamecocks (17-10, 9-6 SEC) saw a career night defensively from Mikayla Robinson (14 blocks) and a double-double from Courtney Koehler (43 assists, 14 digs) and Mikayla Shields (24 kills, 12 digs).
SET ONE: The Gamecocks started strong but fell prey to self-inflicted errors in a 25-19 loss to open the match. Out of a 12-12 tie, the Bulldogs scored eight of the next 10 points to take the lead for good. Carolina’s offense hit just .143, with seven unforced attacking errors, compared to 13 kills and a .355 hitting percentage for the home side. Jess Vastine led the team with five kills on 10 swings, but Georgia freshman Kacie Evans put home eight kills to lead all attackers. In the two teams’ first meeting on Sept. 27, Evans had just four kills for the entire five-set match.
SET TWO: Evans continued to roll to kick off the second set, recording four kills in Georgia’s first seven points to force a quick timeout from South Carolina. The home side would not trail for almost the entire set, but the Gamecocks used some senior leadership off the bench to spark an important comeback. Brittany McLean tallied a trio of kills and a big block in just her first rotation through the front row, and finished with five kills total without an error in the set.
She helped the team claw back into the set, as Georgia had built its lead out to 18-13 late. Three consecutive errors from the Bulldogs started what became a 6-1 run that tied the set up at 19. South Carolina took its first lead of the set at 23-22, off a kill from Shields.
SET THREE: The service of Mikayla Shields and big blocks from Robinson helped the Gamecocks jump out to an early lead in the third. A 7-0 run behind her serve was driven at the net, with Robinson denying Evans three times, and the team pushed ahead 9-4. Blocks accounted for seven of the team’s first 16 points, and Carolina took its biggest lead of the match at 19-11 after Shields’ 16th kill of the night.
The Bulldogs rallied back from there, though, cutting the lead to 21-18 before the Gamecocks closed out. Fittingly, the final point came from a Robinson solo block; the junior accounted for a whopping seven blocks in the set while Shields provided six kills on the attack.
SET FOUR: Georgia charged out to a strong start in its must-win game four, taking a 8-2 lead as Evans heated back up with three kills and a block among those eight points. The Bulldogs were able to string along the comfortable lead to the finish line for a 25-17 final that pushed the match to a fifth set. The home side’s offense regained its mojo on offense, out-hitting South Carolina .412 to .240 and more than doubling it up in kills, 19-8.
SET FIVE: The Gamecocks scored the opening two points, but Georgia responded with four unanswered to force Carolina into an early timeout. The Bulldogs carried an 8-4 lead into the side switch, but Robinson’s 14th block of the night and two more unforced attacking errors from Georgia sparked a 5-1 run that tied the set at 9-9. The two teams traded blows from there; Georgia would go ahead 12-10 but four-straight points for Carolina put them in striking range of the win. After Georgia was able to side-out, McLean sealed the win with her 11th kill of the night.
- Mikayla Robinson now has two matches this season with double-digit blocks. Her seven block alone in the third set would have led the team in all but three matches for the year. Her five solo blocks are the most since Teresa Stenlund had five against Lipscomb on Sept. 11, 2010.
- Behind Robinson’s big night, the team totaled 18 blocks, the third time this season reaching that total. It’s the fourth-highest total for a match of any length in program history.
- Courtney Koehler moved up to 17th in program history with her 22nd career double-double. The senior finished with 43 assists and 14 digs in the match. She also finished with a career high in blocks, with six.
- Mikayla Shields’ 24 kills are the most by any Gamecock so far this season. She has two 20-kill matches this season, the last coming at Clemson (Sept. 12). Also adding 12 digs, Shields now has double-doubles in four of her last five matches.
- Georgia out-hit South Carolina .205 to .191, this is the first time this season that the Gamecocks were out-hit in a match but still won.
- The five-set match breaks a streak of eight consecutive three-set matches for South Carolina, dating back to Oct. 16. Four of the last five matches against Georgia have gone to five sets.
NEXT UP: The team then heads west for a Sunday matinee against Auburn, looking to reach double-digit conference wins for the first time since 2001-02. First serve against the Tigers is scheduled for 2 p.m. ET, airing on SEC Network+.