Gamecocks Hang Tough But Fall in Four at No. 21 Tennessee
Sept. 23, 2012
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - A resilient South Carolina (13-2, 2-2 SEC) squad came within a couple of points of forcing a fifth set, but No. 21 Tennessee (9-4, 2-2 SEC) prevailed in four, 25-14, 25-20, 23-25, 25-23, in front of 1,052 fans at Thompson-Boling Arena on Sunday afternoon.
Kelsey Robinson posted 21 kills and 22 digs for the Lady Vols, while Kayla Jeter added 12 kills. Tiffany Baker had 11 kills and five blocks, three of those solo, while Mercedes Vaughn also had five blocks. Ellen Mullins had 22 digs, while Mary Pollmiller posted 26 assists and 10 digs.
Junior outside hitter Juliette Thévenin posted 14 kills and three aces, leading South Carolina. Senior setter Taylor Bruns added 32 assists, 10 digs, two kills and three block assists. Redshirt sophomore middle blocker Cara Howley and sophomore outside hitter Bethanie Thomas added nine kills each, with Thomas posting 10 digs. Junior libero Paige Wheeler led the Gamecocks with 15 digs.
A 10-point run helped Tennessee claim the first set, 25-14. Robinson powered that run that ended with UT up 14-2 with three kills, while Vaughn had a kill and two block assists in the stretch as well. Robinson had four kills in the frame, helping the Lady Vols hit .385 in the set. Gamecock freshmen Sarah Blomgren and Darian Dozier both had two kills in the set.
The second set went the Lady Vols' way as well, 25-20. A 9-1 stand gave Tennessee the big advantage at 13-5, as Jeter had three kills and a block assist in the run. South Carolina closed the gap to 23-19 with a late 7-1 stretch, getting a kill and an ace from Thévenin, but Tennessee closed it with a DeeDee Harrison kill on the quick set. Bruns had six assists, two kills and four digs in the frame.
South Carolina showed life coming out of the locker room for the third, running to an 8-2 lead behind a four-point run that included two Thomas kills. But Tennessee came back with a 9-2 skein to hold a 13-12 advantage. The Gamecocks got the lead back after kills from Howley and Thévenin, but Robinson had the next four points to give the Lady Vols an 18-15 lead. South Carolina responded with a 7-2 run, getting two points each from Thévenin and Thomas in the stretch to make it 22-20. The teams traded points the rest of the way, with Thévenin putting down a solo block to end the frame. Thévenin had five kills in the frame and two of the Gamecocks' three aces.
The momentum carried the Gamecocks into the fourth set, taking a 4-1 lead, with the points coming from Howley (two kills and a block assist) and redshirt freshman Christina Vereb (kill and block assist). Tennessee came back with a 12-4 stretch to take a 15-10 advantage. The Gamecocks tied it with a four-point run at 18-18, getting the final point on a block by Bruns and Dozier. The Lady Vols made it 23-19 behind a big run from Baker, but the Gamecocks drew within one after two UT errors and a block by Howley and Thévenin, but Leslie Cikra put away a quick set to give Tennessee a set-point try. Thévenin made the Lady Vols wait one more point with a kill, but Robinson ended it at 25-23 with a cross-court smash that the Gamecocks couldn't dig cleanly.
The Gamecocks had four aces to Tennessee's zero and made three less service errors than the Lady Vols. Tennessee won the other stat categories.
South Carolina returns home next weekend, hosting nationally-ranked Florida on Friday night at 7 p.m. EDT in the Volleyball Competition Facility.