Gamecocks Edged in Five Sets by LSU
COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina dropped a tough five-set decision to LSU on Sunday afternoon, giving up a 2-1 set lead despite another stellar performance from senior Kiune Fletcher. The Trinidad and Tobago native added 25 kills on Sunday, hitting .486. The loss drops the Gamecocks to 10-14 overall and 4-11 in SEC play. LSU improved to 11-13 and 6-8 in the league.
1st SET: The Tigers were able to play just a little cleaner in the opening game, using four blocks to out-hit the Gamecocks .250 to .167 and win 25-22. Outside of a line of five kills, one error and six swings for Fletcher, the rest of the Carolina offense hit just .041 and LSU pulled away late for the win. Out of an 18-all tie, the visitors scored three unanswered points and the Gamecocks would not be able to level the score again.
2nd SET: Both offenses would be swinging away freely in set two, but this time it would be the Gamecocks who were able to make the necessary plays late in a 26-24 win. The home side hit .429 with 18 kills as a unit, with Fletcher going errorless with seven kills on eight swings. She had plenty of backup in the second, though with four other Gamecocks putting away two or more kills, including four from Alayna Johnson. South Carolina built a healthy lead, going up by as many as seven points, but LSU used a 7-1 run to cut the score back to one at 19-18 and eventually tied the score at 22. The Tigers denied the first set point opportunity for South Carolina, but a kill from Lauren McCutcheon clinched the win on the second opportunity at 25-24.
3rd SET: The Gamecock attack kept up the pace in the third, hitting .400 with 17 more kills in their most decisive set win of the afternoon, a 25-21 win. Contributions came from all over, with four different Gamecocks pitching in three kills or more. Alayna Johnson led the way with five kills, with setter Claire Wilson converting all three of her attacks into points, including the final two kills of the game.
4th SET: LSU ramped up the pressure behind the service line in the final two sets and it paid major dividends, starting with a 25-19 win to force a fifth set. While it didn’t always score off aces, the serving pressure forced the Gamecock offense into a more predictable product and the Tiger defense finished with an 8-0 advantage in blocks over the final two sets. The zero blocks hurt the Gamecocks even more than the eight for LSU, as the Tigers hit .394 in the fourth and .600 in the fifth. Despite the lopsided numbers, South Carolina still was in a position to compete for the win in the fourth, drawing within one at 19-18 after a kill for McCutcheon. LSU scored the next three points to put the margin back out of reach.
5th SET: The Tigers had an even larger blocking advantage in the final set, scoring five of their 15 points off blocks in a 15-11 win. The visitor’s offense was equally strong, going without an error and finishing with nine kills on 15 swings. South Carolina was otherwise clean, making zero unforced errors, but could not keep pace with LSU despite four more kills from Fletcher.
- South Carolina is now 2-4 in five-set matches this season, with all four losses coming against SEC opponents and three of the four coming with the Gamecocks yielding a 2-1 set advantage (at Ole Miss, vs. Auburn, vs. LSU).
- Kiune Fletcher is the first Gamecock since Juliette Thevenin in 2013 to post 25 or more kills in back-to-back matches. Thevenin did it Sept. 6-7 of 2013; the last Gamecock to do so in SEC play was Shonda Cole in 2006 (Sept. 15-17).
- Not only were Fletcher’s kill totals impressive this week, but against Mississippi State and LSU she also hit for the fourth and second-highest hitting percentages of the season, respectively, among Gamecocks with 10 or more kills. Thanks to just the two matches, Fletcher raised her season average for kills up from 2.20 to 2.77 and her season hitting percentage up from .211 to .262.
- As a team, South Carolina finished with 70 kills, the highest single-game total against a SEC opponent since exactly three years ago to the day, a five-set win over Florida on Nov. 12, 2020.
- With a solo block in the second set, senior Ellie Ruprich broke a tie for first in the program’s rally scoring era for career solo blocks. She surpassed Mikayla Robinson (2017-21) with her 96th solo stuff and finished with three blocks total in the match.
- Junior Claire Wilson finished a busy week as the team’s lone setter with a career-high 55 assists, giving her exactly 100 assists in the team’s two games this week. Wilson broke a previous career high of 50, done on Oct. 29, 2021 of her freshman year – which was also the last time a Gamecock setter surpassed 50 assists in a match.
- Sophomore Alayna Johnson matched her season high with 14 kills, coming off a .303 hitting percentage while also adding a career-high 15 digs. She finished with her highest hitting percentage in a match with 10 or more kills this season, despite starting the match with just one kill and two errors in the opening set.
- Junior Lauren McCutcheon wrapped up a solid week as a two-way player, posting 17 kills and nine digs on Sunday. Combined with her night at Mississippi State on Nov. 8, McCutcheon averaged 3.38 kills and 3.00 digs per set in the two matches, also allowing just two aces in 73 total receptions over the eight sets.
- LSU out-blocked the Gamecocks 16-7 in the match, most definitively with a 5-0 advantage in set five. It is the second-highest block total for a Gamecock opponent so far this season, and the -9 difference in blocks is tied for the largest gap of the year.
- Both teams were pushing the limit in the serve game, South Carolina’s 12 service errors tied a season high and LSU’s 17 errors are the second-most by a Gamecock opponent this season. The Tigers ended with a 7-3 advantage in aces behind the line.
- The injury bug bit the Gamecocks both pre-game and in-game. The team is still missing senior Riley Whiteside, sophomore Kimmie Thompson and freshman Sydney Floyd, but the defense also lost libero Morgan Carter at the end of the second set. Hanna Bissler took over as libero for the remainder of the match and finished with a season-high 12 digs.
It will be just a single match coming up in week nine of conference play, the Gamecocks will head to Athens for a rematch with Georgia coming up on Friday, Nov. 17. It will be a 7 p.m. first serve on SEC Network+.