Oct. 12, 2012
COLUMBIA, S.C. - With both teams needing a win on Friday night at the Volleyball Competition Facility, Alabama (14-6, 3-5 SEC) came out the victor in four sets at South Carolina (13-7, 2-7 SEC), taking the frames 17-25, 25-17, 26-24, 25-22.
Laura Steiner led four Crimson Tide players in double-digit kills with 14. Andrea McQuaid tallied 13 on a .522 hitting percentage, while Kayla Fitterer and Kanesha Burch both added 11. Kryssi Daniels had 14 digs, with both Cristina Arena and Kelsey Melito contributing 10 each. Burch also made five blocks, two of those solo.
Junior outside hitter Juliette Thévenin posted a match-best 19 kills to go with 12 digs, while sophomore outside hitter Bethanie Thomas also had a double-double with 14 kills and 13 digs. Redshirt sophomore middle blocker Cara Howley added 11 kills, and senior setter Taylor Bruns had 49 assists, seven kills, eight digs and three blocks, tying for the South Carolina lead with freshman middle blocker Darian Dozier. Junior libero Paige Wheeler made 19 digs.
The Gamecocks looked strong in the first set, taking it 25-17. A four-point run, helped by two Thévenin kills, gave South Carolina a 12-7 lead, and the lead would never be less than four the rest of the set. Three-straight Gamecock kills, one each from Thomas, Thévenin and redshirt freshman Christina Vereb, pushed South Carolina to set point, and Howley would end it two points later with her fifth kill of the frame. Thévenin joined Howley with five kills in the first, while Thomas had four with seven digs. Wheeler also made nine of her digs in the first, part of the Gamecocks' 25 in the set that helped hold Alabama to an .081 hitting percentage.
Alabama used a 7-1 skein to claim the second set, 25-17. That stretch came at 12-12 and broke open what had been no more than a two-point advantage for either team till that point. Burch had two kills, a solo stuff and a block assist in the stretch that handed the Crimson Tide a 19-13 lead. A Gamecock blocking error ended the set at 25-17. Alabama hit .593 as a team in the frame, not making an attack error.
A large Gamecock lead evaporated in the third set. Leading 13-7 at one point, Alabama responded with a six-point stand to tie the set, with Burch getting two kills in the string. The Gamecocks reclaimed the lead, going up 18-15 after kills by Vereb and Howley came around senior defensive specialist Christina Glover's ace. But the Tide tied it again at 19-19 with a three-point run, getting a kill and a block assist from Steiner. Alabama got to set point first thanks to another three-point stand, but the Gamecocks fought it off. The Tide came back with kills from Fitterer and Burch to capture the frame, 26-24. Burch landed five kills in the set, while McQuaid and Fitterer both had four. Thévenin had six kills for the Gamecocks in the third.
The Crimson Tide broke away late in the fourth set, taking the match-clincher 25-22. In one sequence, Alabama got consecutive points four times and sided out South Carolina on their first chance to take control of the set at 18-16. The Gamecocks never tied it after that. McQuaid ended things at 25-22 with a strong swing, her fourth kill of the set. Steiner had six kills on seven tries in the fourth, bettering the Gamecocks' Thévenin's six on 13 swings.
Alabama won the hitting battle, .336-.234, and had more blocks than South Carolina, 9-6. Both teams landed two aces, and the Gamecocks held advantages in kills, assists and digs overall.
South Carolina steps out of SEC play for a Tuesday night match at Coastal Carolina. First serve is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the HTC Center in Conway, S.C.
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