Sept. 23, 2017
SOUTH CAROLINA AT MISSISSIPPI STATE
STARKVILLE, MISS. - South Carolina volleyball opened the SEC season with a 3-2 win at Mississippi State (9-7, 0-1 SEC) Friday night, 19-25, 25-17, 26-24, 22-25, 15-6. Gamecock head coach Scott Swanson earned his 100th win at the helm of the program, and the team opened the conference slate with a road win for the first time since 2003.
SET 1: A slew of errors early put the Gamecocks (8-5, 1-0 SEC) behind big in the opening game. The Bulldogs built an 18-6 lead before Carolina was able to get back into system offensively. Mississippi State actually had a lower hitting percentage for the set, .158 to Carolina's .207, but the early hole would be too big to overcome. The Gamecocks fell, 25-19.
SET 2: The Gamecocks were able to rebound on the road, and evened the match with a 25-17 win in set two. The offense hit .500, with Mikayla Shields leading the team with four kills, and five blocks limited State to just a .107 success rate. Tough service from Emma Lock gave the team a key run early, breaking a 9-all tie with a quick 3-0 burst to force a timeout. Carolina would not trail beyond the second point of the set, and scored seven of the last 10 points to close out the win.
SET 3: South Carolina built a big lead early in the critical third set, with Lock serving the team to a 6-0 run from the opening whistle. Mississippi State would chip away at the lead, and slowly worked their way back to trail just 10-9 soon after. The Gamecocks would maintain the lead until late, when a 3-0 Bulldog run turned a 23-21 Carolina advantage into a set point opportunity for the home side. A service error knotted the set up at 24-all, and a clutch kill from Alicia Starr and a Bulldog error gave the Gamecocks the key 2-1 lead in the match.
SET 4: Errors came back to hurt Carolina in the fourth, and the Bulldogs used it to pull out the 25-22 win and force five. Nine of MSU's first 12 points came off either a South Carolina service error or unforced attacking error, and the Gamecocks would end up hitting just .189. They would not be able to draw even again for the set, and the conference opener would go to game five.
SET 5: The final set was a game of runs, with Carolina going ahead 6-0 from the first serve, followed by a 4-0 spurt from the Bulldogs. Brooke Gostomski helped Carolina respond with a 4-0 that pushed the lead back up to 10-4, thanks to her tough service. Mississippi State would be unable to match the run, and Carolina ran away with a convincing 15-6 win to claim its first five-set victory of 2017.
Stat of the Match
South Carolina out-blocked Mississippi State 10-2 for the night, and the Bulldogs hit just .079 in the match, the lowest by a Gamecock opponent since Gardner-Webb on Sept. 17, 2016.
The team will have a week to prepare for its next match, when it will host LSU Friday at 7 p.m. on the SEC Network. The Tigers are coming off a convincing 3-0 win over Texas A&M to open their conference schedule Friday.
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