Swanson proud of way team is not giving up
South Carolina dropped a couple of three-set decisions this weekend as they fell to Georgia on Friday and No. 15 Kentucky on Sunday.
“They’re doing what we ask them to do, and that’s to fight for every point,” head coach Scott Swanson said. “I couldn’t be more proud of that. You know, our goal is to get respect. We know we’re young and we know that we’re playing some teams that physically and talent wise may be an overmatch, but I feel like anything can happen if you fight.”
South Carolina (10-8, 2-4 SEC) battled Georgia (14-4, 4-2 SEC) early in a first game that saw seven different tie scores. Sophomore setter Kellie McNeil had 10 assists and a block in the first game, but Georgia eventually out-muscled the Gamecocks as they hit .370 on their way to a set victory.
The Bulldogs jumped out to a quick 10-4 lead in the second game and were fueled by three consecutive kills by junior outside hitter Inutiraha Le’au. South Carolina rallied and went on 5-1 run to make it a 23-20 game, but Georgia called a timeout and took the next two points as well as the set.
The Gamecocks played arguably their best volleyball of the match in the third game, as they shot .265 compared to Georgia’s .108. Georgia grabbed an early 3-0 advantage, but would not be able to sustain it as that would prove to be either team’s largest lead of the third game. The teams traded blows throughout the set until South Carolina found themselves on top 24-22 on the verge of a set win. A kill by Le’au and a couple set errors spelled doom for the Gamecocks and the Bulldogs won the set 27-25 and the match 3-0.
The Gamecocks’ tough play was enough to draw praise from Swanson.
“The real positive is that we’re not giving up when we’re down,” Swanson said. “We’re staying close with good teams and we’re battling. We’re getting valuable experience at certain positions.”
No. 15 Kentucky (13-4, 5-1 SEC) staggered into Columbia Sunday after being handed a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Florida on Friday.
The Wildcats dominated the Gamecocks in the first game behind senior outside hitter Whitney Billings’ seven kills and .484 shot percentage. South Carolina would drop the first game 25-13, but sophomore Darian Dozier did not let it discourage the team.
“[In] the first set, I think we were just kind of timid,” Dozier said. “We weren’t going after it like we should have been. After the first game, we came together and talked and said, ‘we have nothing to lose, people are expecting us to get killed by them, so we should just go all out.’”
The Gamecocks came out and played inspired during the second match. They returned to their normal aggressive play, and led during most of the game. South Carolina led 15-12, but three errors allowed Kentucky to get back in control. The Wildcats took the next four points, forcing South Carolina to take a timeout. A Billings kill coupled with an attack error sealed the deal as Kentucky took the game 25-22.
Kentucky stymied any hopes of a Gamecocks comeback by taking the third set 25-23 after fending off a late South Carolina rally.
“It’s a funny game,” Swanson said. “It’s a game of errors, and when you make less errors you give yourself a chance. When you make too many errors, the other team gets all the momentum and you kind of get in a hole you can’t dig out of.”
The Gamecocks will try to get their season back on track Friday as they head to Mississippi State (9-9, 0-4 SEC) as they continue SEC play.