Gamecocks Knock Off Texas A&M in Four Sets
Oct. 6, 2013
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- The South Carolina volleyball team put together its most complete performance of the season on Sunday to defeat Texas A&M in four sets by the scores of 25-23, 25-20, 20-25 and 25-23 in front of a raucous crowd of 1,430 at the Volleyball Competition Facility.
The win is the Gamecocks' (10-6, 2-2) first ever over the Aggies (9-5, 1-2), who held a 4-0 series lead coming into the matchup. Sunday's crowd also ranks as the fourth largest in VCF history, surpassing Friday's mark of 1,405.
After his team suffered a heartbreaking five-set loss to Arkansas on Friday, South Carolina head coach Scott Swanson couldn't have been more proud of how his team bounced back on Sunday.
"It was a signature win for us," Swanson said. "Our young team battled and scrapped and played defense and blocked. We did a lot of things really well today. We had a huge home crowd on our side making some great noise. It was just an awesome environment. It is a huge confidence builder for our kids and the program."
Texas A&M finished the match with an edge in hitting percentage (.315-.312), but the Gamecocks held the advantage in kills with 71 to the Aggies 59. Senior outside hitter Juliette Thévenin led the way with 23 kills and recorded 11 digs for her third consecutive double-double and fifth of the season. Sophomore middle blocker Darian Dozier added a career-best 18 kills while hitting .571 and led the team with six block assists. Sophomore Sarah Blomgren chipped in 10 kills and two block assists, while freshman middle Jacqy Angermiller contributed eight kills and two blocks. Sophomore setter Kellie McNeil came up just shy of a double-double, finishing with 53 assists, nine digs, six kills and three block assists.
South Carolina's back line came up huge on Sunday as it finished with a 64-56 advantage in digs. Freshman libero/defensive specialist Gabrielle Rubeis led the way with a match-high 19 digs. Junior Michaela Christiansen added 13 digs, and freshman Megan Kirkland contributed eight digs.
"All of our defensive specialists and liberos were unbelievable," Swanson said. "They passed well and served tough and dug some great balls. They kept us in rallies. To win that match we had about five or six extra opportunities to swing because of our defense giving our hitters more balls. It was a great performance by them, and give credit to our blockers for funneling the balls to them."
Senior setter Allie Sawatzky recorded her fourth triple double of the season to lead the Aggies, finishing with 10 kills, 40 assists and 10 digs. Sophomore middle blocker Shelby Sullivan posted a team-high 13 kills, while sophomore outside hitter Angela Lowak and freshman middle blocker Jazzmin Babers added 11 and 10 kills, respectively.
The Gamecocks got the crowd into the match early in the first set as they jumped out to an 8-3 lead behind a pair of blocks, with one by Dozier and McNeil and the other by Dozier and Blomgren. Texas A&M made it interesting, pulling to within one point on six occasions, but South Carolina wouldn't break. After the Aggies cut its deficit to 24-23 on a Sullivan kill, Dozier delivered a kill off a McNeil set to give the Gamecocks a 25-23 win. South Carolina hit .333 for the set. Thévenin led the way with seven kills, while Dozier had five on five attempts.
South Carolina never trailed in the second set as it out-hit the Aggies .438-.355 behind seven kills from Dozier. After Texas A&M tied the match up at 12-12 on a Babers kill, Dozier answered with a kill to give the Gamecocks the lead for good, as South Carolina outscored the visitors 13-8 down the stretch.
The Aggies avoided the sweep with their best effort of the afternoon in the third set, hitting .412 for the game. The teams played to an 8-8 tie early on before a Gamecock service error gave Texas A&M the lead for good. The Aggies pushed their lead to as many as five points, and South Carolina was unable to pull closer than two the rest of the way.
The match seemed to be headed for a fifth set, as Texas A&M built a 14-10 lead in the fourth set. However, the Gamecocks roared back to take the lead with a 6-0 run capped by back-to-back kills by Blomgren. The teams then played through five ties and two lead changes before a Thévenin kill gave South Carolina the lead for good at 23-22 on its way to a 25-23 victory to win the match.
South Carolina returns to action next weekend with a pair of home SEC matches. The Gamecocks will face Georgia on Friday at 7 p.m. and Kentucky on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. at the VCF.