For the second time in three days, South Carolina swept an SEC opponent at the friendly confines of the Carolina Volleyball Center. On Sunday afternoon it was Alabama that fell victim to the Gamecocks’ stellar attack.
South Carolina (13-8, 5-4 SEC) won the three sets 25-15, 25-14, 25-19 over the Crimson Tide (11-9, 3-6 SEC) in dominant fashion once they found their rhythm.
“Our serving was really aggressive, we made a couple more errors on the serve in the third set, but I think in the first two sets we had one service error combined,” Gamecock head coach Tom Mendoza said. “Our attack errors were really low, so we were getting aggressive swings and keeping the ball in the court.”
McKenzie Moorman, who made her first career start, led the Gamecock attack with 12 kills and an absurd .706 hitting percentage. She also did not commit a single error. Mikayla Robinson had 11 kills while Mikayla Shields had eight of her own. Shields also got it done from behind the service line with four aces. Courtney Koehler had 31 assists.
“My coaches are always telling me to go in there and take some big swings,” Moorman said. “That’s what I’m here for.”
“She’s been getting better and better each week,” Mendoza said of the freshman outside hitter. “Even before she stepped on the court in matches, she’s been improving in practice. Her attacking, her block setups have been good.”
Defensively, the Gamecocks’ Claire Edwards led the way with four blocks, followed by Moorman with three and Robinson and Shields with a pair each. Addie Bryant had 12 digs to lead the team with Shields right behind her with 10.
South Carolina came out a little sluggish in the first set. Alabama scored the match’s opening two points and the Gamecocks had to keep battling just to keep the set even. The home side took a 9-8 lead and never looked back to win the opening set 25-15.
Bryant was a force in the opening set. She dove all over the court and kept balls alive with spectacular diving efforts. She capped off the set with a dig, one of eight in the opening set, that wound up landing on the other side of the net for a kill, her first of the year.
“That was amazing,” Robinson said. “She was so happy.”
The Gamecocks picked up right where they left off in the second set. The home side scored the first four points, forcing an Alabama timeout.
But it was too late. The route was on.
Alabama trimmed the lead to 6-4, but the Crimson Tide never got within two points, and the Gamecock lead kept ballooning until it ended the set at 11.
“We were communicating. Win the ball, we rolled through. Lose the point, lose the ball, we rolled through,” Shields said. “I think everybody was doing a good job of communicating and being aggressive.”
The Gamecocks forced five Alabama attack errors in the set.
“[Robinson] was working really hard, especially in transition,” Mendoza said. “I thought her and Claire both did a really good job seeing the block and hitting around the block, understanding how Alabama was playing against them.”
The third set looked like it was going to be much of the same, with South Carolina winning six of the first nine points to force an early Alabama timeout. The lead grew to as high as eight at 15-7, but the Crimson Tide turned the momentum in their favor.
The visitors scored the next four points to force a South Carolina timeout at 15-11. Alabama eventually cut the lead down to one on several occasions but could not tie up the set.
Koehler had a kill on the second hit to make the score 20-18 to stop the visitors from making a comeback. Alabama called a timeout at 21-19, but the Gamecocks won the next four points to finish off the sweep.
“I think we just weren’t as focused,” Robinson said.
Said Mendoza, “The message was to take care of our side and keep the pressure on their side.”
The Gamecocks will now be looking for their third win in four games against a physical LSU (10-9, 4-5 SEC) team that comes to Columbia, S.C. on Friday for a 7 p.m. matchup.