Gamecocks Fall in Three to Arkansas
Oct. 9, 2011
by Koby Padgett
COLUMBIA, S.C. - Despite taking the first set beyond the 25-point mark, South Carolina (9-8, 0-7 SEC) could not overcome a strong Arkansas (11-7, 3-4 SEC) team, as the Razorbacks claimed a 27-25, 25-17, 25-15 win in front of 663 people at the Volleyball Competition Facility on Sunday afternoon.
Gamecock freshman outside hitter Bethanie Thomas's 12 kills topped the team, and she added nine digs. Sophomore libero Paige Wheeler posted 16 digs, tops among all players. Junior setter Taylor Bruns compiled a double-double with 24 assists and 12 digs while adding five kills. Senior Teresa Stenlund had four block assists on the day.
"Bethanie had a really good line shot today and was hitting some smart shots," commented Gamecock head coach Scott Swanson. "She wasn't trying to push everything through the block, which is what we've been working on. Also, Taylor Bruns works so hard and does everything she can for the team. We're wanting more people to follow her lead."
Amanda Anderson led Arkansas with 12 kills on a .667 hitting percentage to go with three aces. Jasmine Norton contributed a double-double with 11 kills and 11 digs, while Kelli Stipanovich had seven kills, four aces and 12 digs. Christa Alvarez had 11 digs and Kasey Heckelman added seven block assists.
South Carolina rallied late in the first set before falling, 27-25. Arkansas took the lead early at 7-4 on a five-point run, keyed by two blocks from Stipanovich and Heckelman and a kill from each. The Gamecocks kept fighting, never getting more than four points back before gaining a 24-23 advantage thanks to a four-point stand that included three kills from Thomas and another from sophomore middle blocker Megan Kent. Arkansas stopped the Gamecocks' lone set-point attempt, as Stipanovich and Heckelman put up a block to tie it at 24-24. Another block from the duo gave Arkansas a set-point chance, but Bruns got a kill to knot it at 25-25. Stipanovich gave Arkansas another chance to end the set, and a Gamecock attacking error did finish it. Both teams hit over .275 in the set, with the Gamecocks posting 22 kills. Norton tallied five kills and five digs in the first alone.
Two long runs helped Arkansas claim the second set, 25-17. A six-point skein by the Hogs put them up 8-3 early on, with Anderson landing all three of her aces in succession to start the stretch. The Gamecocks fought back to within one after a 5-1 stand that included two kills each by Thomas and Bruns. But Arkansas's four-point run stretched the lead back out to five and nearly put away the Gamecocks. Raymariely Santos had two aces in that span and assisted on kills by Norton and Anderson. The Razorbacks closed the set with a 5-1 stretch, watching it end again on a Gamecock attacking error. Six of Arkansas's aces came in the second.
The final set went almost all to Arkansas in the 25-15 clincher. The Razorbacks posted a side-out percentage of 93 percent, only allowing the Gamecocks to take consecutive points once, those coming on set point. A three-point run that included two Norton kills gave Arkansas all the space it needed at 9-5. Four three-point runs stretched the lead out to 11 before Howley's kill and block assist with Stenlund made Arkansas go for a third set point. A block from Stipanovich and Anderson closed it, as Arkansas held South Carolina to a .033 hitting percentage in the third.
The Gamecocks out-dug the Razorbacks, 57-50, and had more kills (41-40) and assists (39-34) than did Arkansas, but the visitors claimed the hitting percentage (.294-.178) aces (10-0) and blocks (9.0-4.0) battles in the win.
South Carolina hits the road next weekend to play at Alabama and Ole Miss.