Gamecocks Swept by No. 4 Florida
The two teams play again Thursday at 3 p.m.; it will be South Carolina's fall finale
COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina opened its final series of the fall with a loss at home to No. 4 Florida (5-0) Wednesday night. Three Gamecocks (4-3) went for seven or more kills for the match, but the Gator offense out-hit Carolina .319 to .114 to take the win.
“Florida’s a great team and that’s what we signed up for in the SEC, you play good teams every week. Florida brings a physicality, especially at the outside that you have to try to match,” head coach Tom Mendoza said after the loss. “Our message to the team was, you don’t have to do it by trying to play outside yourself or play at 120 percent of your potential. You do it by handling the speed of the game with composure and with balance and when we did that, I thought we were rewarded and we were successful and were able to put pressure on them.
“We got off to a little bit of slow start each set so when we were able to put good stretches together it was always kind of catching up instead of pulling ahead. I think if we can match some of the good stuff from today and get off to a little bit better starts it may have a different feel to it. That’ll be our challenge and what we try to accomplish tomorrow.”
SET ONE: The slow start was most pronounced in the opening frame, as Florida scored the first five points of the set on the way to a 25-17 final score. The Gators led by as many as 10 points, but short runs behind the serves of Camilla Covas and Riley Whitesides narrowed the deficit down to four, 21-17, before Florida scored the final four points to end it. Whitesides led the offense with four kills, but the team as a whole only was able to total 10 kills in the set.
SET TWO: Set two would be tighter, but an early scoring run for Florida keyed the visitors to another 25-17 final margin to make it a 2-0 match score. The Gators held a 7-6 lead, but reeled off four unanswered points to push ahead for good. South Carolina increased its kill total, led by three kills for Whitesides and Mikayla Robinson, but four Florida blocks held the home side’s hitting percentage in the set to just .048.
SET THREE: The final set would be a competitive one, featuring four lead changes and eight ties, but Florida pulled away late for the 25-22 win and the sweep. After falling behind 5-2 early and burning a timeout, the Gamecocks would score six of the next seven points to flip the scoreboard in their favor. The two sides traded points until late, when freshman Madeline Swentor served the team to a 21-all tie. Out of a Florida timeout and trailing 22-21, the Gators went for kills on four consecutive points to deny the Gamecocks a fourth set. Four South Carolina hitters had multiple kills in the set.
The fall schedule closes out the fall Thursday against the Gators, with the rematch on the SEC Network+ with a 3 p.m. first serve. The team will honor senior Kaely Ann Thompson before the match, the Greenville native had a career-high 10 assists in the match Wednesday night.