South Carolina volleyball

South Carolina (3-3) went 2-1 at the UCF Challenge tournament in Orlando.

Addie Bryant and Jess Vastine represented the Gamecocks on the all-tournament team. Vastine finished with 26 kills and 25 digs over the 10 sets played; Bryant had 44 digs as the team's libero, and also pitched in 14 assists.

Here are recaps of all three matches.

Gamecocks drop tight match against UCF

 South Carolina opened its weekend by dropping a close three-set match to the host Knights (25-21, 27-25, 25-23). The Gamecocks were led by 14 kills from Mikayla Shields and 21 digs from Addie Bryant. Claire Edwards and Mikayla Robinson combined for 18 kills and just three errors on 29 swings. Mikayla Shields led the team with 14 kills and moved up to seventh in program history in kills (1,185).

Freshmen Courtney Weber and Holly Eastridge saw extended playing time. Weber finished with nine assists and four digs, and Eastridge had a kill, block and dig. Addie Bryant had one of her best nights as a Gamecock when it came to defensive production. The senior libero popped up 21 digs, almost half of the team’s total (46).

SET ONE: There were six ties before the score reached the 20s. UCF had a 3-0 run to break a 17-all tie late and get the win. The Knights finished the set with five blocks, and the Gamecocks committed five service errors to drop a game where their offense produced more kills than the home side. All five starters finished with multiple kills.

SET TWO: Game two had 12 ties and six lead changes giving way to a 27-25 win for UCF. Late in the action, a block from Edwards and  Shields gave the Gamecocks their biggest lead of the night, at 22-19, and forced the Knights into a timeout. Coming out of the break, UCF went on a 5-0 run and would serve for the win. After being denied another set point at 25-24, UCF put together back-to-back kills to take the 2-0 lead.

SET THREE: UCF built a 15-7 lead from the start of the set, but the Gamecocks leaned on Shields and Britt McLean to flip the set with a 16-7 run of their own to forge ahead, 23-22. Shields put away four of her seven kills in the set during a 5-0 run that would end the comeback quest and put the team up by one, but the Knights rallied for the next three points to end the match.

Defense guides Gamecocks to a win over Kansas 

South Carolina rebounded with a big win Saturday against Kansas, winning in four sets to hand the Jayhawks their first loss of 2019. Despite a first-set loss, the Gamecock defense’s 18 total blocks helped the team overcome early jitters for the 25-27, 27-25, 25-18, 25-13 decision. It was SC’s first win against a current Big 12 team since 2012. 

South Carolina’s 18 total blocks were the most in a single match since a five-set match against St. John’s almost 13 years to the day (9/8/06). Mikayla Robinson’s seven total blocks moved her up to 7th in the rally-scoring era. Jess Vastine’s 14 kills and 14 digs gave her two double-doubles in 2019. The junior had just one for her career coming into the season.

SET ONE: There were 16 ties and seven lead changes, with South Carolina coming up empty on set point opportunities at 24-23 and 25-24. The defense put down five blocks, but Kansas finished the game with 24 digs to hold off the Gamecock attack.

SET TWO: Kansas rode the momentum to a 5-0 start to set two, forcing the Gamecocks into a quick timeout. The Jayhawks pushed ahead to 17-11 lead before SC rallied back. The Gamecocks scored nine of the next 13 points to cut the deficit to one and were able to deny a Kansas set point at 24-23 to tie up the set for the first time since 0-0. Edwards and Vastine combined for a block to put Carolina up 26-25, and Mikayla Shields’ fifth kill of the set closed out the comeback.

SET THREE: South Carolina’s defense quite literally blocked out any chance of Kansas response in the third, putting down seven blocks in the set en route to a 25-18 win. Of those seven blocks, six came in the team’s final 11 points of the set, helping SC push away from a 13-all tie to a 22-15 advantage.

SET FOUR: The Jayhawks took a 3-1 lead from the opening serve but wilted under pressure. A 6-0 SC run quickly made it 7-3 and forced a Kansas timeout. The run expanded to a 13-1 after blocks on three consecutive attacks brought about another timeout from Kansas.

Gamecocks roll Albany in weekend finale

South Carolina rolled to a sweep of Albany on Sunday afternoon, not trailing once in a 25-15, 25-18, 25-8 decision. Albany’s eight points in the third set was the lowest total allowed by South Carolina since 2016, when it held Buffalo to seven points.

The defense also limited the Great Danes to a .022 hitting percentage, the lowest by a Gamecock opponent since 2016 when Gardner-Webb hit .013.

SET ONE: Along with six blocks, the defense allowed just eight kills from Albany and used a 10-1 run early to turn a 6-4 score into a 16-5 advantage on the way to a 10-point margin of victory. 

SET TWO: The Gamecocks put away a match-high 14 kills in the second set, with Mikayla Shields, Mikayla Robinson and Claire Edwards each putting away three to guide the offense. Albany hit .075 for the game, which would stand as its highest percentage of the match.

SET THREE: South Carolina scored in every facet of the game to close out the sweep, winning 25-8 for the widest margin of victory in three years. The Gamecocks finished with four blocks and four aces in the set, holding Albany to a negative hitting percentage while the offense churned out 12 kills on just 16 swings.