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Defense Fuels Volleyball in Sweep of UCF
Women's Volleyball  . 

Defense Fuels Volleyball in Sweep of UCF

The Gamecocks host Clemson and UCF tomorrow to close the Palmetto Showdown

COLUMBIA, S.C. – A stout defensive performance guided South Carolina (3-1) to a three-set victory over UCF (2-3) on Thursday night at home. The Gamecocks recorded 48 digs and seven blocks over the three sets, helping hold the Knights to a .159 hitting percentage. On offense, Kyla Manning led the team with 14 kills while hitting .359 and adding nine digs. 
SET ONE: The opening frame would be tight early before the home side pulled away for a 25-18 score. The UCF blockers kept things close with four total blocks in the set, but South Carolina’s offense was otherwise efficient, totaling 12 kills with just one unforced error. Manning and Lauren McCutcheon combined for seven of those kills, and Morgan Carter led the defense with five digs. Out of an 8-all tie early, a 5-0 run powered by a pair of Manning kills gave the Gamecocks a lead it would never give back. 
SET TWO: With the UCF block production dropping off from the opening game, South Carolina’s offense ran wild in the second and led the team to a 25-14 rout and a 2-0 lead in the match. Three different attackers all finished with three or more kills, and all three hit over .300 while doing it. Behind the serve of Riley Whitesides, the team ran off six unanswered points at the beginning of the set to build a 7-1 lead and UCF got no closer than four points the rest of the way. Manning’s five kills was a high for the team, but it was also the effort of three defenders – Mallory Dixon, Whitesides and Carter – that made a difference, as the trio each had five digs in the set. UCF hit just .171 compared to South Carolina’s .462 in the set. 
SET THREE: The Gamecocks were nearly denied the sweep after losing a late lead, but recovered for a 28-26 score to clinch the match. South Carolina enjoyed a big lead early, again with Whitesides service sparking the team to a 6-1 start, but UCF slowly but surely chipped away to get back into the game late. With South Carolina up 22-20, the Knights scored four unanswered points to threaten to extend the match, but kills from McCutcheon and Manning broke the team’s slump and tied the set at 24. Manning had kills to set up match point at 26-25 and 27-26, then combined with Mikayla Robinson for the block to get the win for the team at 28-26. 

  • The match was won behind the service line; South Carolina had five aces from five different players while committing just five errors on serve. UCF, on the other hand, recorded just one ace while committing 11 errors over the three sets.
  • Morgan Carter’s 14 digs led the team’s defensive efforts. The freshman libero has 55 digs over 15 sets so far this season, 20 more than any other member of the team.
  • Mikayla Robinson hit .583 with eight kills out of the middle for the night and added three blocks. 

Head Coach Tom Mendoza on the team’s defense Thursday night
I still think there’s room to keep growing in that area, which is good because we’re playing much better defense than we were a week ago but we can still be better and we want to keep up the level of play that we expect out of ourselves. I think that’s an area of our game that that has to keep growing… Hopefully we’ll keep we’ll keep moving, making improvements, keep adjusting, but I liked the direction we’re going and you saw the impact it had. At this point of the year we’ve played four teams with a really good attackers, UCF certainly fits in that category too so hopefully just the more we see it, the more our eyes adjust and the more we understand what body positioning we need to make those plays.

The Palmetto Showdown continues with two matches Friday. First up is a renewal of the team’s rivalry with Clemson, that match will air nationally on the SEC Network with a 1 p.m. first serve. After that, a rematch with UCF awaits in the evening with a 7:30 start time. That will be featured on the SEC Network+.