Gamecocks Sweep Alabama in Series Opener
TUSCALOOSA, ALA. – South Carolina picked up a road sweep at Alabama on Friday night, overcoming a big deficit in set one before righting the ship. Lauren McCutcheon and Kiune Fletcher led the offense with 14 and 13 kills, respectively, with both also hitting well north of .350. The Gamecocks move to 12-12 for the season and 6-8 in conference play, Alabama now stands at 8-17, 2-11 SEC.
1st SET: Alabama jumped ahead behind a 7-0 run early that turned a 4-3 advantage into 11-3 before the Gamecocks could side out. The Tide enjoyed a big lead for most of the early going, pushing out to as much as nine points (17-8) before the Gamecocks rallied back. It started with a 5-0 burst with a pair of kills and a block from Ellie Ruprich to make it 18-15, then a 6-0 run thanks to a pair of service aces from Lauren McCutcheon that gave this team its first lead of the night at 21-20.
The Gamecocks had the first set-point opportunity at 24-23, but weren’t able to close out. Alabama nearly recovered for the set win, leading at 28-27, but an attack error followed by back-to-back kills for Kiune Fletcher sealed the 30-28 win. Coming off a career-high 15 kills against Ole Miss last Sunday, Fletcher remained dialed-in and led the team with six kills in the set. Along with her two aces behind the line, McCutcheon also chipped in five kills without an error.
2nd SET: The Crimson Tide again would start strong in the second, taking an early 10-7 lead. The Gamecocks again used the serve game to work their way back in, using a 4-0 run capped by an ace from Riley Whitesides to flip the scoreboard in their favor at 15-13. The Tide were able to tie the score at 15, but never held the lead again in a 25-21 loss. South Carolina pulled away late with three unanswered points to close it out, highlighted by Whitesides’ second ace of the set. McCutcheon added five more kills in the second, she was joined by freshman Alayna Johnson who hit .400 with five kills as well to power the offense.
3rd SET: South Carolina was able to break away mid-way through the third set to run away late with a 25-19 win to clinch the sweep. The team’s traded points early with five ties before either side reached 10 points. The Gamecocks made the decisive move with four unanswered points to turn a 10-8 deficit into a lead they would not relinquish. Capped by a block from Fletcher and Ruprich, the team went on a 7-1 run after trailing 10-8 and Alabama would get no closer than three points the rest of the way. McCutcheon and Fletcher again joined forces to torment the Tide, the duo had four kills apiece and neither committed a single error over 16 combined swings.
- The win was South Carolina’s first on the road since Sept. 16 at Miami. The team’s last sweep on the road was almost a year to the day, a win at Auburn on Nov. 10 of last season.
- After going without a game with 10 or more kills through the first 68 matches of her career, Kiune Fletcher now has done it in back-to-back games. The junior finished with 13 kills, second-most on the team, while also hitting .357 and adding two blocks.
- With four Friday night, sophomore Oby Anadi surpassed 100 total blocks for the season. With her joining Ellie Ruprich in triple digits, the Gamecocks have two players with 100 blocks in a season for just the fourth time since 1999. The other pairs to do it were Mikayla Robinson and Claire Edwards in 2019, Lauren Ford and Nicole Miller in 2004 and Niece Curry and Berna Dwyer in 2002.
- Jenna Hampton led the defense with 19 digs, she now moves up to ninth for most digs in a single season for the rally-scoring era. She enters Saturday’s match three digs away from being the 15thGamecock in the program’s 49-season history to reach 400 digs in a single season.
- Lauren McCutcheon continued her late-season tear Friday night, hitting .371 with a team-high 14 kills. She also added three service aces and four total blocks. Her 19 total points are the third-most in a match of any length so far this fall. Over the last 30 days, McCutcheon is averaging 3.12 kills per set while also hitting .260.
- The Gamecocks were able to counter two of Alabama’s strengths: its serve game and the play of senior middle Alyiah Wells. The Tide entered the night with the most service aces in the SEC, ranking 20thnationally with 1.85 per set, but finished with four aces and eight service errors. Wells entered the match hitting .340 with 2.62 kills per set and finished Friday with eight kills but a .143 hitting percentage.
- Sophomore Claire Wilson reached 1,000 career assists early in the second set of the match. She now needs 31 more to enter the top-10 for career assists in the rally scoring era (since 2003).
QUOTABLE: TOM MENDOZA
On the team’s first-set rally to set the tone for the match
Seeing that poise on the road in a SEC match is a big deal and I think it was something that we learned as that first set went on. To have the team see that, whether they’re veterans or younger players who are going to be big players moving forward, it’s going to be really important and any time you can win on the road in the SEC it’s a big deal.
The two teams will play again in under 24 hours, with a Saturday rematch scheduled for 3 p.m. ET. The game will again be broadcast on the SEC Network+. Follow @GamecockVolley on Twitter for continued updates on the team.