Whitesides Reaches 1,000 Career Kills; Gamecocks Drop Match to No. 13 Kentucky
COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina volleyball fell in four sets to No. 13 Kentucky on Friday night, pushing the team’s record on the year back to 8-13 overall and 2-10 in SEC play. The conference-leading Wildcats improved to 10-1 in the league and 12-7 overall. Senior Riley Whitesides led the team with 15 kills on a .323 hitting percentage and surpassed 1,000 career kills in the match. She is now the 17th member of the 1,000-kill club in the program’s 50 seasons.
1st SET: Kentucky opened the match with a decisive 25-17 victory, hitting .409 while also adding four service aces and three total blocks. The Gamecocks used some early scoring from Whitesides to open tight, trailing 11-9, but the Wildcats score nine of the next 11 points to build up the big final margin.
2nd SET: The Wildcats defense held South Carolina to its lowest hitting percentage of the match in set two, taking a 2-0 set lead with another 25-17 score. The Gamecocks finished with nine errors and a .057 hitting percentage, boosted by a solid line of four kills, one error and six attacks from junior Lauren McCutcheon. Similar to set one, Carolina was matching Kentucky early before the lead slipped, even taking a 15-13 lead into the first timeout of the set. From there, though, the visitors locked down the net with three blocks in the 12-2 final run.
3rd SET: South Carolina was able to flip the script to extend the match, winning a big 25-18 decision in the third. The Gamecocks hit .364 with a game-high 14 kills, six of which came from Whitesides – including her 1,000th kill. As a team, South Carolina made just one unforced errors on offense, compared to five from Kentucky, and nullified the Wildcat service pressure with better passing.
4th SET: The offense remained efficient in the final set, but just weren’t able to pass into enough opportunities as Kentucky won 25-18 to clinch the win. South Carolina hit .296 as a team, but with only 10 kills to show for it thanks to three more Kentucky service aces. Whitesides, McCutcheon and Campbell Paris each accounted for three kills, but Kentucky’s offense countered with 18 kills on just 31 swings with just two errors.
- Riley Whitesides is just the seventh Gamecock in the modern scoring era (since 2001) to reach 1,000 kills, the third in the last decade (Mikayla Shields, 2016-19, and Mikayla Robinson, 2017-21).
- The team welcomed home over 20 former players spanning four decades in the program’s annual Alumnae Night match.
- The serve game again was pivotal in the loss, with Kentucky finishing with a 9-2 advantage in service aces and kept the Gamecock passers off-balance all night.
- In the team’s current four-game losing streak, opponents are averaging over nine aces per game (38 total) compared to five per game (21 total) for the Gamecocks.
- Lauren McCutcheon had a strong showing offensively in her return to the lineup, with 11 kills on a .258 hitting percentage.
- Kentucky’s final hitting percentage of .320 is the fourth time this season a Gamecock opponent went over .300 in a match.
The Gamecocks wrap up the home weekend on Sunday at noon with a rematch against Ole Miss. The Rebels won the previous meeting this season, taking a five-set decision on their home court. Sunday will be the team’s Senior Day, where seniors Caitlin Crawford, Kiune Fletcher, Ellie Ruprich and Riley Whitesides will be recognized before the match.