Gamecocks Stifle Kennesaw State in Road Opener
The defense held the Owls to just 25 total kills Thursday night
KENNESAW, GA. – In its first road match of the fall, No. 24 South Carolina overwhelmed Kennesaw State (4-3) for a straight-set win in Georgia Thursday night. The Gamecocks (6-1) are now winners of four straight games. Kyla Manning and Riley Whitesides led the team with 10 kills each and the defense limited the Owls to 25 kills total in the three sets.
SET ONE: The Gamecocks stormed out to a 7-2 lead to start the night, but Kennesaw State used its deadly service game to quickly respond. Coupled with three errors behind the service line for South Carolina, the Owls ran back ahead 14-12 and forced a timeout. Out of that break, though, the offense came alive for South Carolina and a 5-0 run that included two Mikayla Robinson kills and two tandem blocks from Robinson and Claire Wilson broke the team out of a 16-all tie. Kennesaw State would not threaten again in the game, a 25-20 final that featured 21 digs for South Carolina and a .270 to .050 advantage in team hitting percentage.
SET TWO: The offense took a back seat in set two, but the serve game remained a major storyline. Kennesaw State entered the night with almost three times as many aces as it has allowed to opponents through its first six games, ranking 20th in the nation for aces per set. It would be its errors behind the line, though, that made the difference in a 25-17 set two score to give the Gamecocks a 2-0 lead in the match. South Carolina’s defense remained strong, limiting the home side to nine kills and a .067 hitting percentage in the game.
SET THREE: Manning served up a big early run for the visitors to kick off the third, helping turn a 5-5 tie into a 12-5 game and South Carolina would not look back in a 25-17 score. Kennesaw State would not be able to recover from the early run, further hampered by renewed efficiency from South Carolina’s offense. The Gamecocks had 15 kills on a .278 hitting percentage for the set, with Manning backing up her success in the serve game with a team-high six kills.
- South Carolina’s defense held the Owls to a .060 hitting percentage in the match. The last time the team held an opponent under .100 was against Auburn on Oct. 28 of last season.
- A big key to the defense’s success was its back line. Freshman Morgan Carter totaled 16 digs, classmate Lauren McCutcheon added 10 and South Carolina overall had 47 digs in the three sets.
- Kyla Manning now has double-digit kills and a hitting percentage of .300 or better in four of the team’s seven matches this season.
- Freshman Claire Wilson led the offense with 20 assists and also added five blocks, a new personal best for the setter.
- Kennesaw State entered the night with a 55-21 advantage in service aces in its first six matches, but totaled only four with 12 errors behind the line Thursday.
Head Coach Tom Mendoza on the result at Kennesaw State
We had some good things and then some things we need to work on. Credit the team for being able to compartmentalize parts of their game, I thought our block setups were really good, followed scouting reports, things like that. We communicated and especially with the amount of movement that Kennesaw has with their offense, I thought we handled that well. A few too many balls dropped, overpasses we weren’t killing, I think we didn’t get our offensive rhythm until the third set, so obviously things that we need to keep doing better. We were putting some pressure on Kennesaw and they’re really good team, a well-coached team and we were able to make them uncomfortable.
The team’s trip to Kennesaw wraps up Friday afternoon with a neutral-site match against Santa Clara. First serve against the Broncos is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET. There will be no video coverage, follow @GamecockVolley on Twitter for stat links and score updates.