Sept. 2, 2012
FAIRFAX, Va. - Behind a strong offensive performance guided by senior setter Taylor Bruns, South Carolina (8-0) kept its record perfect with a four-set triumph over Niagara (3-3), 15-25, 25-9, 25-17, 25-8, on Sunday afternoon in The Mason Inn Patriot Invitational.
South Carolina tallied a .370 hitting percentage, with Bruns making 39 assists in the contest to go with seven kills without an error, two aces and eight digs. Redshirt sophomore middle blocker Cara Howley hit .526 with 11 kills, and junior outside hitter Juliette Thévenin compiled a double-double with 14 kills and 12 digs. She also led the team with three blocks, two of those solo. Freshmen Jenna Allen and Darian Dozier added eight kills each, with Allen also posting 12 digs. Junior libero Paige Wheeler added 14 digs.
The Purple Eagles' Allison Reis tallied 20 digs, while Kari Honomichi posted 18 kills.
A close first set turned Niagara's way thanks to a seven-point stand, getting the Purple Eagles to set point at 24-13. The Gamecocks got two points back, but Honomichi ended the frame with her ninth kill of the set to hand the Purple Eagles the 25-15 win. Reis had eight digs in the frame, while Niagara hit .469.
The Gamecock defense took over in the second set, holding the Purple Eagles to a .033 mark in a 25-9 rout. South Carolina hit .667 with only one attacking error in the decisive victory, getting at least three kills from all six eligible attackers in the frame. Howley had four, while Thévenin added five digs to go with her three kills in the frame.
The Gamecocks used a four-point skein on Bruns's serve to break open the close third set for a 25-17 win. At 16-14 in favor of South Carolina, Bruns posted a kill to start the stretch. A solo block and kill by Thévenin made it 20-14. A Niagara ball handling error ended the frame. Thévenin had five kills to go with her solo stuff in the third.
South Carolina cranked up the defense again in the fourth set, holding Niagara to a -.059 hitting percentage to cruise to the 25-8 fourth-set win. The Gamecocks hit .500 in the set, with middle blockers Dozier and Howley getting five kills combined. Dozier also had both of her block assists in the match-clinching set.
Niagara posted one more ace than South Carolina, but the Gamecocks won the blocks, 7-4, and kills, 58-38. The 8-0 record for South Carolina is the first time since 1984 the team has started a year with a winning streak of eight or more. That 1984 team went 9-0 to start, 28-8 overall, and the team earned the first NCAA Tournament bid in program history.
The Gamecocks come home for the Carolina Clash next weekend at the Volleyball Competition Facility. Providing the opposition will be Clemson, UAB and Winthrop. South Carolina's first match of the event comes Friday against the archrival Tigers, with first serve set for 7 p.m.
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