Nov. 16, 2012
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- A career outing from junior outside hitter Juliette Thévenin propelled South Carolina (17-13, 5-13 SEC) to a five-set victory at Alabama, taking the match 25-20, 25-12, 17-25, 20-25, 15-7 on Friday night at Foster Auditorium.
Thévenin set four career bests in the match with 27 kills on 73 attempts, four solo blocks and six blocks overall. The four solo blocks also tied for the best in Gamecock history in a five-set contest. Thévenin also had 16 digs for her 11th double-double of the campaign. Freshman outside hitter Jenna Allen also posted career highs with 11 kills and 15 digs, her first double-double of the year. Senior setter Taylor Bruns made 64 assists and 15 digs and tied her season high with three block assists. Sophomore outside hitter Bethanie Thomas led all players with 25 digs, while junior libero Paige Wheeler also had 15. Redshirt sophomore middle blocker Cara Howley tied a career best with five block assists.
Kayla Fitterer led Alabama with 26 kills on 82 swings and posted 12 digs, while Laura Steiner added 13 kills. Cristina Arenas had 22 digs, and Kryssi Daniels added 19 with a match-best three aces. Sierra Wilson made 47 assists and 14 digs, while Kelsey Melito added 10. Kanesha Burch had five blocks.
The Gamecocks started the first strong and claimed the set 25-20. A 6-0 start for South Carolina came on three blocks, two solos and an assisted block by Thévenin. Alabama drew within two at 9-7, but the Gamecocks stretched the lead back to 18-13 with a four-point stand, the last three all kills from Thévenin. Howley closed the set with a bump over that Alabama could not keep off the floor due to miscommunication. Thévenin had 10.5 points in the frame with eight kills and the opening sequence of blocks, while Allen tallied five digs.
South Carolina kept the roll going in the second set, winning it 25-12. Alabama burned both timeouts by the 11-3 mark, which saw junior middle blocker Megan Kent post two kills and a block assist in the stretch. Alabama got as close as five, but the Gamecocks ripped off a five-point run that made it 20-9, capped by a Bruns dump. Allen closed the frame with her kill off the Crimson Tide block. Thomas had 10 digs in the second set, while the Gamecocks hit .412 in the frame.
Alabama rebounded in the third to take the set 25-17. The Crimson Tide defense did most of the work, posting six blocks and holding the Gamecocks to a -.024 hitting percentage. A five-point stand that made it 16-8 gave Alabama its largest lead until the end, with three blocks coming in the stretch, a solo for both Andrea McQuaid and Burch as well as a combo block between the two. Fitterer ended the frame with her ninth kill in it.
The Crimson Tide kept the momentum going in the fourth set and held off comeback bids by the Gamecocks to force the fifth set, 25-20. A 7-0 Alabama lead got whittled to three after a five-point Gamecock run at 12-9, with Thévenin posting three points in the stand. Alabama slowly built the lead back out to eight and got to set point before South Carolina fought back. The Gamecocks fended off four set points, but McQuaid wrapped it on the fifth with a kill down the line.
South Carolina posted a 5-0 lead in the fifth behind a block assist and a kill from Thévenin. That lead grew to 8-2 after another Thévenin kill, a Howley ace and a block from Bruns and Kent, and a three-point run with two Allen kills made it 12-4. The Gamecocks finished it on Thévenin's back-row cross-court kill, the 27th of the night for the Belgian junior. The Gamecocks held Alabama to a -.083 hitting percentage in the final frame. Thévenin had five kills and Allen three in the fifth.
The Gamecocks won every stat category except aces, which went to the Crimson Tide 5-2. South Carolina improved to 3-0 in five-set matches on the season, and the win pushed the Gamecocks into a guaranteed winning record for the year.
South Carolina wraps up the 2012 road schedule with a 1:30 p.m. contest at No. 16 Florida on Sunday. Fans with Sun Sports on cable or satellite can watch the match live.
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