Volleyball Drops Weekend Finale to No. 4 Florida
COLUMBIA, S.C. – Gamecock volleyball returned home Sunday afternoon for its first home match since Sept. 3, opening the month of October against No. 4 Florida (11-2, 3-1 SEC). The Gators would take the match in four sets, dropping South Carolina to 6-7 overall and 0-4 in SEC play. While the team had a number of strong offensive performances, Florida committed just 11 total errors on offense to finish with a .347 hitting percentage in the win.
1st SET: After the game was delayed due to a fire alarm triggered in the Carolina Volleyball Center, the two sides kicked off the game with a point-for-point battle. There would be seven ties and three lead changes before the first timeout of the set, but the Gators would lock down South Carolina in the home stretch for a 25-19 win. Out of a 14-all tie, Florida scored seven of the next nine points and the Gamecocks would get no closer than three the rest of the way.
2nd SET: The Gators snapped up a healthy lead early and rode it to a 2-0 set lead with another 25-19 win. The visitors went ahead 7-3 from the start of the set and a game-high 10 Gamecock attack errors – just one less than Florida’s error total for the entire match – held off any chance of a rally from there. Florida was responsible for six of those errors, blocking down the Gamecock attackers, while its offense needed just 11 kills to get the win. Lauren McCutcheon led the team with an all-around effort in the set, finishing with four kills, four digs and a block.
3rd SET: South Carolina was able to extend the match thanks to an efficient third set from its offense, which converted nearly half its total attacks (37) into kills (18) in a 25-23 victory. Freshman Campbell Paris led the way early, with four kills in the team’s first 15 points. Despite the great numbers on offense for the home team, Florida never went away.
All told, there would be 14 ties and eight lead changes, with the Gators hitting .289 as a team and taking advantage of five Gamecock service errors to threaten a sweep late with a 21-20 lead. Senior Ellie Ruprich helped turn the tide late, putting together a solo block and a kill in a 3-0 run that flipped the scoreboard to 24-22 in Carolina’s favor and Riley Whitesides capped the win with her fifth kill of the set.
4th SET: Florida stormed out to a big lead in the fourth to squash any hopes of a further rally from South Carolina, carrying a 14-4 start to the set to a 25-20 win that clinched the match. The Gators built the early lead thanks to three service aces and four unforced errors by South Carolina, but the Gamecocks did manage to pressure their opponents with a strong finish. Trailing 19-9, South Carolina used an 8-2 run to get back within four, with Whitesides accounting for three kills in the run. A Morgan Carter service ace made it a 23-20 lead for Florida and would be the closest the team got since the start of the fourth, but the Gators closed out the win from there.
- There were 2,111 fans in attendance on Sunday, the fourth time this season the Gamecocks had a crowd over 2,000. Prior to this season, there were just three games TOTAL with 2,000 or more fans in attendance in program history.
- The last time the team started conference play with four consecutive losses was during the 2015 season, when the Gamecocks started 0-6.
- South Carolina finished with the advantage in kills (56-54) and digs (51-36) in the loss, marking the first time since Oct. 8, 2022 (at Tennessee) that the team lost a match in which it led in both categories. The team entered Sunday with a 3-0 record when finishing with more kills and a 2-0 record when finishing with more digs this season.
- Behind her team-high 16 kills, Riley Whitesides surpassed 900 career kills in Sunday’s match. She is just the seventh woman since 2001 to reach 900.
- Kiune Fletcher followed up a career night at Ole Miss on Friday with 14 more kills and a .385 hitting percentage against the Gators. The senior has 83 kills over the last nine matches, more than she had over the first 40 games of her career.
- Florida enjoyed a strong advantage in both service aces (7-2) and total blocks (13-8). Over the last five matches, South Carolina has just 12 service aces total, compared to 47 for its opponents.
After a busy start to conference play, the Gamecocks now have a small break in the action. They will next take the court on Sunday, Oct. 8, with a 4 p.m. match against No. 24 Auburn. It will be another national TV game for South Carolina, with ESPNU providing the coverage.