Volleyball Loses in Five Sets at Tennessee
KNOXVILLE, TENN. – South Carolina found itself in another five-set affair on Saturday against Tennessee (9-8, 3-2 SEC). The Gamecocks (9-7, 3-3 SEC) were able to force a deciding final set, but were stymied by the Volunteer defense, who finished with 21 blocks in the match. Alayna Johnson led the offense with 14 kills, Jenna Hampton had another solid day defensively with 28 digs.
1st SET: Tennessee took control of the early game, using a pair of blocks in the first four points and some unforced attack errors from Carolina to take a 15-11 lead at the set’s first break. Coming out of a timeout down 19-14, the Gamecocks locked in and started their comeback push. It started with a kill from Ellie Ruprich followed by back-to-back blocks from Oby Anadi on both pins.
The Gamecocks would finally tie things back up at 20-20 after a Dalaney Hans service ace, Tennessee pushed away again with a 23-21 lead but gave the advantage up after two unforced errors on its side of the net. The Gamecocks earned set point opportunities at 24-23, 25-24 and 26-25 before clinching it on Riley Whitesides’ fourth kill of the set.
2nd SET: The Volunteers block had another effective start in the second, with seven blocks among their first 15 points to take a 15-10 lead at the first timeout of the set. South Carolina’s net defense wasn’t able to keep the same pace, and though the back line did well with 26 total digs it would not be enough to keep the home side from evening the match with a 25-20 win.
3rd SET: South Carolina and Tennessee traded small runs early, a pair of kills from Riley Whitesides in a 4-0 run gave the Gamecocks a 13-9 lead and forced the home team into the first timeout of the set. That advantage carried until the late teens, when Tennessee used three unforced Gamecock errors, two aces and another block in a game-breaking 8-1 run to take a 23-19 lead. South Carolina was able to get back within one thanks to a pair of Whitesides kills, but a service error and block ended the set at 25-22 for Tennessee.
4th SET: Needing a win to extend the match, the Gamecocks used a big run behind the line by Ruprich to turn an early 4-1 deficit into a 7-4 advantage. After holding the lead, Tennessee grabbed it back thanks to a 7-2 run to make it 13-12. The Gamecocks were able to side out on a kill from Alayna Johnson and then scored four unanswered points after that behind the serve of Ruprich to push back ahead at 18-14.
The pendulum swung back with three consecutive hitting errors for the Gamecocks, but Claire Wilson helped steady the ship with another run behind the service line. The sophomore setter dropped in an ace during a 4-0 run that broke an 18-all tie and the Gamecocks went on to close with a 25-21 to force a fifth set.
5th SET: The story didn’t change in the fifth set, both teams traded blows to be first to 15. South Carolina used a 3-0 run to take a 9-7 lead, but then yielded four of the next five points to Tennessee. A kill from Johnson tied the score at 12, but the Vols got back-to-back blocks to set up two match point opportunities. Lauren McCutcheon got a kill to side-out, but Tennessee’s 21st and final block of the day clinched the victory at 15-13.
- Tennessee finished with a season-high 21 blocks in the match, including six in the fifth set alone. It is the second time in the last four matches that a Gamecock opponent went for over 20 blocks in a match.
- Just six games into SEC play, the Gamecocks have played four five-set matches.
- Alayna Johnson led the offense with 14 kills, a career high for the freshman. She had more kills Saturday than she had in the previous three matches combined.
- Jenna Hampton finished the day with 28 digs, marking the fourth game in a row with 20 or more digs and her third time eclipsing 25 digs in a game.
The two sides will meet again in about 18 hours, with the Sunday rematch scheduled for a noon start. It will be a national broadcast on the SEC Network with Sam Gore (play-by-play) and Shelby Coppedge (analyst) on the call.