Sept. 8, 2017
COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina opened its home tournament, the Carolina Classic, Friday afternoon with a 3-0 victory against Eastern Kentucky (2-6). Mikayla Shields led the team with 12 kills, and Aubrey Ezell added five service aces to move the Gamecocks to 5-2 this season.
SET 1: EKU went ahead early in the set with a 3-0 start, but Carolina was able to chip away at the deficit and took its first lead on a block from Alicia Starr and Claire Edwards to make it 6-5. It was a tight game throughout, but the Gamecocks used their blocking prowess to get the key advantage late. Trailing 17-16, South Carolina scored two of its next three points off blocks to swing the lead back in its favor, 19-18. Ezell's dominating jump serve put the set to rest, and she spearheaded a 5-0 run to end the set behind a pair of aces, clinching the 25-20 win.
SET 2: The Gamecock defense flexed its muscle again in set two, dominating the EKU attack and holding it to just a .069 success rate on attacks for the game. Mikayla Robinson and Courtney Furlong teamed up for a pair of blocks, and five different Gamecocks had multiple kills in the game for Carolina, who hit .385. The Colonels cut it close again late in the set, with the home side ahead just 19-18, but another Ezell-led run iced the 25-19 win and a 2-0 lead.
SET 3: The team's two-headed Mikayla attack came through big in the clinching set, and Shields and Robinson combined for nine of the team's 15 kills in the third. They would need to be stout, as EKU fought back from a big deficit early to try for a fourth set. South Carolina led by as much as 10 points, 18-8, but the Colonels went on an impressive 7-0 run after that and tied things up at 22-all soon after. After a kill from Celina Sanks made it a 24-23 lead for the visitors, the Gamecocks used an attack error to side out, then got a tandem block from Robinson and Furlong and a kill from Shields to escape with the sweep, 26-24.
Stat of the Match
South Carolina held Eastern Kentucky to just a .115 hitting percentage in the match, and out-blocked the Colonels 10-2.
The team will need to stay locked in, as it has one more match Friday. Next will be Miami (Ohio), who dispatched of Radford, 3-0, to start the tournament Friday morning. The Redhawks are ranked in the mid-major top 25 poll, and made the NCAA tournament in 2016.
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