Balanced Offensive Attack Helps South Carolina Sweep Mississippi State
Oct. 21, 2011
by Koby Padgett
COLUMBIA, S.C. - South Carolina (11-10, 2-9 SEC) used a balanced offensive attack to sweep past Mississippi State (10-10, 5-6 SEC) in three sets, taking the frames 25-19, 26-24, 25-22 in front of 503 fans on Friday night at the Volleyball Competition Facility.
The Gamecocks hit .359 on the evening, getting seven or more kills from all six starters. Sophomore outside hitter Juliette Thévenin posted 13 kills and 15 digs. Senior middle blocker Teresa Stenlund hit .474 while making 10 kills. Freshman outside hitters Cara Howley and Bethanie Thomas both had nine kills, while junior setter Taylor Bruns posted nine kills on a .727 hitting percentage, adding 44 assists and seven digs. Sophomore middle blocker Megan Kent hit a career-best .500 while compiling seven kills and three block assists. Sophomore libero Paige Wheeler tallied 16 digs to lead all players and matched her career high with five assists.
"I'm extremely pleased," said head coach Scott Swanson. "We distributed the ball well. Everybody that was in there contributed offensively. We had some really, really good numbers. Teresa Stenlund was unbelievable, and the list goes on. That's how we have to play the rest of the way to get some upsets in the SEC."
Mississippi State's Caitlin Rance posted 17 kills, moving into eighth in school history for kills and becoming the 10th Bulldog to tally 1,000 career kills. Hillary Parker added 11 digs for the Bulldogs.
South Carolina came out hitting on all cylinders, posting a .421 hitting percentage in the first frame to take the set, 25-19. Howley, Stenlund and Thomas all had five kills in the first. A five-point run on Bruns' serve put the Gamecocks ahead for good, with two Stenlund kills helping in the stretch. Only twice would the Bulldogs get back-to-back points the rest of the set, while South Carolina got to set point thanks to a four-point run, powered by three Thomas kills. After a Dani McCree kill stopped the streak, Kent put one away to end the frame at 25-19.
A tight second set tipped the Gamecocks' way in the end, 26-24. Seven lead changes and 19 tied scores came in the second, when neither team ever held more than a two-point advantage. Mississippi State had momentum going there way toward the end, getting a kill and an ace from Faith Steinwedell to get to set point at 24-23. But the Gamecocks posted the only three-point run in the set to end it, getting Thévenin kills around a Bulldog attack error to take the 26-24 win. Thévenin dominated play, posting 10 kills on 17 swings with just one error while also making seven digs.
The Gamecocks made a late surge to take the final set, 25-22. Down two points twice late (17-15, 20-18), South Carolina responded both times to tie the score with two-point stands. Mississippi State had one last lead after a Rance kill put them ahead 21-20, but the Gamecocks ripped off three-straight points to take the advantage, capping the stand with a block from Howley and Kent. A Lainey Wyman kill stopped the run, but it was also the last Bulldog point. Thomas put away a kill, and Kent and Bruns stuffed one last Bulldog attack to end the set and match. Thomas had four kills without an error in the final frame, while both Thévenin and Wheeler posted five digs each.
The Garnet and Black posted 20 more digs (58-38) than the Bulldogs and won the hitting battle, .359-.216. The teams tied with five blocks each, while Mississippi State held one lone advantage with two aces to South Carolina's one.
South Carolina returns to the court on Fri., Sept. 28 at Kentucky, with first serve set for 7 p.m. in Memorial Coliseum in Lexington.