Swanson: players rest after five-day break
After a win over Coastal Carolina and five days of rest, the South Carolina volleyball team is fresh and ready for arguably the toughest stretch of games on its schedule.
The Gamecocks (12-11, 3-7 SEC) will travel to Lexington, Ky., Friday where they will look to avenge their October loss to No. 20 Kentucky (16-6, 8-3 SEC). South Carolina will then travel to Georgia to take on the Bulldogs (17-7, 7-5 SEC).
Coming off a five-game thriller at home against Coastal Carolina, coach Scott Swanson decided to give his team the weekend off in order to ensure his squad would be healthy enough to challenge Kentucky and Georgia.
“We felt that giving them time off was more valuable than showing them the same video over again,” Swanson said. “We got a much-needed break in the last five days, which I think is bound to help us. You know, our knees are going to feel a little bit better. We’re probably more mentally rested.”
South Carolina’s five days to recover mentally and physically came after a brutal conference schedule that seemingly got the best of the team. The losses to Mississippi State and Tennessee left the youthful Gamecocks scratching their heads. After seeing his squad come within mere points of dropping a home match to the Chanticleers, Swanson made the call to rest his players.
“I think it’s very good because a lot of us have been playing tired, sick and sore,” freshman outside hitter KoKo Atoa-Williams said. “So, it’s a good resting period. Five days was just the right amount. This week is definitely going to be a good week for us. Now that we’re all ready and physically there, we can just work on our mental game.”
The Gamecocks faced Kentucky earlier this season when the then-15th-ranked Wildcats visited Columbia, sweeping South Carolina 3-0. Losses to Georgia and Missouri have relegated Kentucky to the third spot in the SEC standings, behind Missouri and Florida. The Gamecocks currently sit behind LSU at No. 9.
Although Kentucky has established its place among the elites of the SEC, South Carolina found some success against the Wildcats in the matchup earlier this season. Despite being swept 3-0, the Gamecocks held leads late in the second and third sets, but allowed them to slip away in the waning minutes.
Swanson acknowledged that his team was competitive at times against Kentucky, but did not play well overall. The coach noted that they will try different approaches in an effort to throw off Kentucky.
“We’re going to have to take more risks with our serve and hit the balls off their hands instead of driving the ball into the court,” Swanson said. “We have to do some different, special things to beat these teams.”
Georgia presents a new challenge for the Gamecocks, as the Bulldogs own a 10-1 mark at home this season. Georgia has rebounded from a three-game losing streak by winning three out of its last four, including an impressive 3-2 victory over Kentucky.
Similar to the Wildcats, Georgia beat South Carolina handily in three sets. South Carolina was able to force the third set past the 25th point, but after seeing a 25-25 tie, the Bulldogs took the next two points as well as the match.
According to Swanson, the Gamecocks’ mentality will dictate how well they perform against the next two opponents. Swanson said that if South Carolina plays at a high level and challenges its opponent, it will be able to compete.
“If we don’t play with consistency and we walk into their gym and we give them the feeling that we’re just a wounded animal in there and they’re going to be able to have their way with us, then they will,” Swanson said.