Gamecocks Fall in Five Sets at Ole Miss
OXFORD, MISS. – South Carolina fell in a tight five-set road match at Ole Miss Friday night, giving up a 2-1 set advantage to fall to 6-6 for the year and 0-3 in SEC play. Kiune Fletcher had a career night in the loss, with 20 kills, but the Rebels (8-6, 2-1 SEC) came on strong down the stretch to defend home court.
1st SET: South Carolina opened with a steady performance, taking the set 25-21 by keeping the Rebels from making any big runs. The defense was able to side out Ole Miss at almost 70 percent, with a 4-0 run early the only long stretch the home side could put together. The Gamecocks won a key challenge with the score tied at 18, which sparked a 6-1 run down the stretch to set up the win. Kiune Fletcher was a big part of the run, going for a kill and back-to-back blocks, the senior finished with four kills, three blocks and a pair of digs. Overall, the team had 14 kills on a .250 hitting percentage, with five different attackers finishing with two or more kills.
2nd SET: Ole Miss opened the second on a 6-2 run to burn a quick timeout for South Carolina. The Rebels were able to maintain the multi-point lead, which grew to as many as six points, and held off a pair of Gamecock rallies for a 25-22 win to even the sets. South Carolina was able to cut the deficit to two at 16-14 and nearly had a late run to cut it back again at 20-18, but lost a challenge and would get no closer. Seniors Riley Whitesides (four kills) and Ellie Ruprich (three) led the offense, but the Rebels countered with 17 kills and a team hitting percentage over .300.
3rd SET: The two sides battled early in the third, with neither side able to grab momentum until a 3-0 Rebel run made it a 15-12 lead for the home side. South Carolina matched the Rebels point-for-point and finally were able to erase the deficit with a torrid finish, outscoring Ole Miss 8-2 down the stretch for the 25-21 win and a 2-1 set lead. Five different hitters contributed a kill among those eight points, Ruprich provided the spark late with a kill and solo block to help her side pull away. The Gamecock offense had perhaps their best individual set of the season, finishing with 18 kills while hitting .548, committing just one error.
4th SET: Ole Miss responded in a must-win set, slowing the Gamecock offense with its best defensive numbers of the night in a 25-19 win. The Rebels matched its block total from the first three sets (4) by the time it got to 20 points, building a 20-16 advantage. Overall, South Carolina hit a match-low .158, with the home side countering with its best set on offense with a .317 hitting percentage and 16 kills.
5th SET: The Gamecocks started the final game strong, scoring four of the first five points, but Ole Miss quickly countered with three points in a row to tie it back up. Kills from Campbell Paris and Alayna Johnson gave Carolina the lead at 8-6 going into the side switch, and the two teams would trade point for point for nearly the entire game from then on. Ole Miss broke through with a 3-1 run to tie the set up at 12, forcing a Gamecock timeout. Out of the break, the Gamecocks got kills from Kiune Fletcher and Riley Whitesides to set up a potential match point opportunity, but Ole Miss won a challenge to turn a 14-12 Gamecock lead into a 13-13 tie. The home side scored the final two points to clinch the match.
- Ole Miss had not lost a set at home coming into Friday, sweeping its first four matches.
- Senior Kiune Fletcher led the offense with a career-high 20 kills while also hitting .410. Including last year’s win over Ole Miss on Nov. 6, she is hitting .444 while averaging 3.89 kills per set in the last two meetings with the Rebels.
- Freshman Campbell Paris had her best night of conference play yet, hitting .333 with 12 kills, snapping her five-game stretch with fewer than 10 kills in a match.
- Morgan Carter finished with 25 digs, giving her four 20-dig matches in the month of September – three coming in the team’s last four outings. The junior libero surpassed 500 career digs in the match, now with 517.
- South Carolina went without a block for the final two sets, after starting with eight in the first three. Conversely, Ole Miss had eight blocks in the final two sets after just four in the first three.
- The Gamecocks are now 2-7 in matches at Ole Miss over the last decade, with their last road win in the series coming in 2019.
The team returns home for the first time since Sept. 3 with a Sunday afternoon match against fourth-ranked Florida (10-2, 2-1 SEC). First serve against the Gators is scheduled for 2 p.m. with the match scheduled to air on the SEC Network.