Gamecocks Take Carolina Clash Title with Sweep of Winthrop
COLUMBIA, S.C. - Stellar performances from Cara Howley and Christina Vereb propelled South Carolina (11-0) past Winthrop (3-7) in three sets, 25-13, 25-21, 25-23, in front of 518 fans at the Volleyball Competition Facility on Saturday night.
The Gamecocks captured the 2012 Carolina Clash presented by Courtyard Marriott championship, going undefeated on the weekend. Senior setter Taylor Bruns earned the MVP award, and Howley and junior outside hitter Juliette Thévenin joined her on the all-tournament team. Clemson's Mo Simmons and Sandra Adeleye as well as UAB's Sam Serley rounded out the all-tourney team.
Against Winthrop, the redshirt freshman Vereb led the charge, hitting .500 with 11 kills in the victory. Thévenin had 11 kills and 12 digs, while Howley added 10 kills on a .467 hitting percentage and two aces. Sophomore outside hitter Bethanie Thomas tallied a match-best 16 digs and added five kills, while Bruns had 22 assists and nine digs.
Rachel Lenz paced the Eagles with nine kills, and Catherine Brusie had 12 digs.
South Carolina cruised to a 25-13 first-set win, hitting .500 in the frame without a single attack error. Two four-point runs put the most distance between the teams, with those ending at 8-2 and 13-4. Howley had four kills on four swings, while Vereb had three on six tries. Thomas had two blocks in the set to go with six digs.
The second set was decidedly tighter, as the Eagles led as late as 15-13 before the Gamecocks responded to win 25-21. The comeback came on Howley's serve, as she posted two aces in a row during a seven-point stand. Thévenin added two kills and a block assist in the stretch as well. Thévenin had four kills without an error and six digs in the frame.
The Gamecocks had control early in the third set, but the Eagles came storming back to make it interesting. Howley's serve again proved big, as South Carolina owned a 13-6 lead after the five-point skein helped by the tough serves. Winthrop bounced back, using a five-point run to draw within four at 17-13. The Eagles chipped away and got within one at 24-23 before freshman middle blocker Darian Dozier closed the match with her sixth kill of the night. Winthrop had 10 kills in the frame, matched by 10 Gamecock attacking errors. Vereb had six kills on nine swings without an error to lead South Carolina in the third. Thomas added seven digs and Bruns six in the set.
South Carolina hit .309, compared to Winthrop's .155. The Gamecocks won every statistical category, helping run their season-opening winning streak to 11 games, the second longest in school history behind the 1983 squad.
Opening SEC play at home next Friday, Georgia comes to the VCF to take on South Carolina. First serve is scheduled for 7 p.m.