Coastal Carolina provides Gamecocks with test
South Carolina players admittedly did not expect to play a five-set match Wednesday night against Coastal Carolina. But, coming off an excruciating SEC stretch that saw the Gamecocks drop five out of their last six SEC matches, South Carolina needed a win in any form possible.
“We really didn’t expect it to go into five. We just have to take out the positives though,” senior outside hitter Juliette Thevenin said. “We won and we fought until the end, and we just took care of business.”
South Carolina survived the scare and beat the Chanticleers 3-2 by the scores of 25-22, 22-25, 25-21, 22-25 and 15-13. Thevenin finished the match with 25 kills matched with 13 digs, good for a double-double.
The Gamecocks found themselves down early in the first set, struggling to get their shots to fall against Coastal Carolina. Down 14-10, Swanson used his first timeout to try to disrupt the Chanticleers’ momentum. South Carolina used the timeout to regroup, and took the first point off the break. The Gamecocks stormed back into contention, capitalizing on Thevenin’s relentless play on the back line. The senior finished the first set with five digs, including two in a pivotal rally that allowed the Gamecocks to creep back in the game. South Carolina took advantage of a 6-1 run late in the game to take a late lead that they would not relinquish, winning the set 25-22.
Staggering out into the second set of play, the Gamecocks took their first lead of the game on a Dozier kill to make it 7-6. The Chanticleers managed to rally, taking their biggest lead of the game — a six-point lead — at 20-14. Swanson burned another timeout, hoping to ignite the same deadly momentum that South Carolina used to win the first set. A 5-2 rally by the Gamecocks would force Coastal Carolina to take a timeout of its own. However, the Chanticleers would exact their revenge, taking the set 25-22.
The Gamecocks jumped out to a quick lead, but struggled to pull away from Coastal Carolina. After trading points with the scrappy Coastal Carolina team, redshirt sophomore Kellie McNeil recorded consecutive blocks, giving South Carolina an 11-8 lead. The Gamecocks would maintain several uncomfortable one and two-point leads down the stretch until a service ace by the Chanticleers’ Lian Bernett forced a 19-19 tie. An error coupled with a block by McNeil and freshman Jacqy Angermiller would give South Carolina a 25-21 set win as well as a 2-1 match advantage heading into the fourth set.
With its back against the wall, Coastal Carolina controlled much of the play in the fourth match. Middle back Eszter Nagy had a team-high 17 kills with four coming in the fourth set. The Gamecocks eventually fell by the score of 25-22, which ultimately forced a decisive fifth game.
The two teams exchanged the first six points, setting the score at an even 3-3. A thunderous kill by sophomore Sarah Blomgren as well as a block on the ensuing play gave the Gamecocks a two-point advantage. That lead would quickly vanish and turn into an 8-7 Coastal Carolina lead as the teams switched sides. A service error by Coastal Carolina initiated a 4-2 South Carolina run that would end with another Chanticleer service error and a 15-13 Gamecock win.
“[The win] gives us a lot of confidence especially since a lot of our next matches are on the road,” McNeil said, who finished the game with 52 asissts. “I saw that we could fight through any obstacles that are thrown at us. [During the fifth set] the whole team was thinking that we need to fight for every point. “