Gamecocks Bounce Back to Claim Saturday Rematch With Towson
COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina volleyball rallied back for a series-opening loss Friday night to post a 3-1 win over Towson (1-1) on Saturday afternoon, sending another over-capacity crowd home happy. After a quiet opener, the veteran core of the team came through big with senior Riley Whitesides leading the team in kills (13) and digs (15), junior Oby Anadi with six blocks with four kills and sophomore Alayna Johnson stepping into the lineup and delivering eight kills on just 15 swings.
1st SET: Towson appeared to have lost momentum from the night before, building a quick 9-3 lead on the Gamecocks. The Tigers maintained a healthy lead until a key mid-game stretch where Carolina chipped away with an 11-3 run that flipped a 16-10 deficit into a 21-19 lead. Anadi keyed the comeback with her defense, igniting the team with three-consecutive blocks with the last making it a 20-19 score for the home side and Towson would not take the lead again in a 25-22 final. Four different attackers had three kills in the set for the Gamecocks, highlighted by three kills on just four swings for Johnson.
2nd SET: The Tigers flipped the score back in their favor with a 25-22 win in the second to even the match. Towson again took a big lead early, going out to as 19-13 lead, but were this time able to stifle a Carolina rally. The Gamecocks were able to cut it close, two more Anadi blocks made it a 20-19 deficit for Carolina, but Towson put its foot back on the gas and closed out the set.
3rd SET: Both teams grinded out the start of the all-important third set, which featured nine ties in the first 24 combined points. South Carolina broke away for a modest lead thanks to success in the serve game. Sophomore setter Kimmie Thompson strung together back-to-back aces behind the line as part of a 4-0 run to make it 16-12 and that was all the cushion the Gamecocks needed. The teams again would trade points, with Towson tying the score at 18-all and 19-all, but the Tigers would never regain the lead. From the 19-19 mark, junior Hanna Bissler served the team through a 4-0 run and the Gamecocks won 25-20 for the 2-1 set lead.
4th SET: Towson appeared ready to send the match to a fifth set thanks to a big lead early, but again the home crowd willed their side back into contention. The Tigers scored the game’s first four points and led 15-10 at the first timeout of the set, but from there the Gamecocks started their comeback. Riley Whitesides, who’s service behind the line frustrated the Towson passers all afternoon, again came through with a big streak. She helped turn a 17-12 deficit into a 20-18 lead for Carolina and the visitors were unable to answer one last time. Whitesides’ 13th kill of the day set up match point at 24-22 and a Towson error sealed the 25-22 win.
- After solid opening nights, freshmen Sydney Floyd and Campbell Paris each earned their first collegiate starts on Saturday. Floyd dished out a team-high 26 assists, finding Paris eight times for kills.
- Towson did finish the match with more kills (59-51) and blocks (10-8) than Carolina, but it was unforced errors that made the difference. The Tigers had five more service errors and twice as many unforced attacking errors (16-8) than the Gamecocks.
- Sophomore Kimmie Thompson moved into the second setter role on Saturday and put up a solid stat line of 20 assists, seven digs and two key service aces.
- Riley Whitesides notched the team’s first double-double of the year, following up four in 2022. The senior has eight total for her career.
- Whitesides also moved up in to the top 10 for career kills in the rally scoring era after Saturday. She currently stand at 791.
- With 2,124 more fans in attendance, the weekend total ran to 5,340. Friday night was the second-largest home crowd in program history and Saturday ranks fourth. Six of the eight largest crowds in program history have all come since head coach Tom Mendoza’s first season (2018).
- Friday night, the six returning attackers who saw playing time accounted for just 22 total kills, but that number jumped up to 43 for same six on Saturday.
QUOTABLE: TOM MENDOZA
On closing the opening weekend strong
“I’m really proud and happy for our team as we are learning how to win at this level with a lot of new faces contributing. It was a great atmosphere both days and we are glad to send the fans at the CVC home happy. There was a lot to be proud of and a lot to learn from as we have a quick turnaround to play again Wednesday.”
The Gamecocks remain home for three more matches next week in what will be a span of five matches in just eight days. First is a new chapter in their rivalry with Clemson, those Tigers come to Columbia on Wednesday, Aug. 30 for a 7 p.m. matchup. Then, on Friday, South Carolina opens the month of September against Miami (Fla.) at 7 p.m. and caps the weekend with a 1 p.m. match against Troy on Sunday, Aug. 3 at 1 p.m.