Aug. 25, 2012
COLUMBIA, S.C. - Behind a bevy of standout performances, including a career-best 13-kill performance from junior middle blocker Megan Kent, South Carolina (3-0) fought past a tough East Tennessee State (3-1) squad in five sets, 25-19, 25-14, 22-25, 24-26, 15-9, in front of 533 fans at the Volleyball Competition Facility on Saturday afternoon.
Kent hit .600 but fell five swings shy of qualifying for the single-match record book at South Carolina in her best match in the Garnet and Black. She added four blocks, tying with three other Gamecocks for the team high. Outside hitters Juliette Thévenin and Bethanie Thomas both had double-doubles, with Thévein posting 15 kills and 11 digs to go with Thomas's 10 kills and 14 digs. Thomas added three solo blocks as a part of her four-block outing, tying for second in South Carolina history in five-set matches. Redshirt sophomore Cara Howley added 12 kills and four block assists, while redshirt freshman Christina Vereb tallied 11 kills and four block assists. Junior libero Paige Wheeler added 20 digs.
The Buccaneers were led by Megan Devine's 16 kills, while Meredith Hardy added 13. Jamie Rutledge posted 47 assists and 10 digs, and Ivey Rice contributed 11 kills and 14 digs. Katie Muey added 18 digs. Khadijah Wiely had nine kills and eight block assists in the contest.
South Carolina took a 16-8 lead in the first behind a big six-point run that included two kills from both Kent and Vereb. The Buccaneers fought back, posting a 7-2 stand that included three blocks to close it to five at 23-18. But the Gamecocks bounced back, with Thomas ending the frame at 25-19 with her shot down the line. She posted five kills in the frame, while freshman outside hitter Jenna Allen and Kent both had four kills in the frame.
The Gamecocks blew open the second set toward the end, claiming it 25-14. With a 12-10 lead, the Gamecocks posted the first of three four-point skeins that helped end the frame. The last run that closed the frame started with a Vereb kill, a block from Vereb and Howley, a solo stuff by Thomas and a Howley quick-set smash. South Carolina hit .444 in the set, led by three kills each from Thomas and Thévenin.
ETSU took advantage of two early five-point stands to take the third 25-22. The Bucs' Hardy posted six kills in the frame, including two on overpasses in the initial skein that made it 5-2. Two kills and a block assist from Devine powered the second stretch for ETSU, making it 11-6. The Gamecocks drew within two twice, the final time on Thomas's solo block at 22-21. But the Buccaneers closed it out, with Hardy landing a tip to stop the set at 25-22. Vereb had four kills on five swings in the third.
The Buccaneers came back to take the fourth set 26-24. South Carolina fought back to take an 18-14 lead on a 6-1 run capped by two Thomas kills. ETSU responded, tying the set at 19-19 when Ivey Rice's shot rolled over the net cord and fell on South Carolina's side. The Gamecocks fought back, getting to set point after Kent polished off an overpass and Howley and Thomas rejected a Buccaneer shot. But Devine posted a kill off a block and combined with Wiley to block one as well. On the Bucs' first set point, Wiley tapped over a ball that found the hardwood, ending the frame at 26-24. Devine posted seven kills and Rice five in the set for ETSU, while Kent went 4-for-4 on swings.
The Gamecocks raced out to a 6-2 lead in the fifth behind two kills and a block assist by Kent. ETSU closed the gap to 9-8 after a 4-1 run that started with two Brittany Gesell kills. South Carolina bounced back with its own 4-1 run, started by two Thévenin kills, forcing the Bucs to call timeout at 13-9. Another Buc error made it Gamecock match point, and Thévenin wrapped it there with a back-row smash that found the darker playing surface at the VCF.
The squads tied in aces and blocks, but South Carolina won the rest, including a .297-.207 lead in hitting percentage.
South Carolina closes the 2012 Gamecock Invitational, presented by Courtyard Marriott, at 8 p.m. against UNC Asheville.
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