In order to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2002, South Carolina head volleyball coach Scott Swanson knows his team needs to win some games they aren’t supposed to.
After dropping the first set, the Gamecocks responded well, winning the next two sets.
But after a disastrous fourth frame, the two teams went to a decisive fifth set in which Texas A&M was able to win 15-13, thanks to consecutive kills by junior middle blocker Shelby Sullivan to end the match.
For Swanson, the most frustrating part of the defeat is knowing that his team could have earned a quality win against a Top-25 squad with a high RPI which would have bolstered the Gamecocks résumé.
“I think that was the most disappointing part about it,” Swanson said. “That would definitely would have helped our chances to beat a team with a higher RPI than us, and with a national ranking, so that’s what made it even more frustrating that we didn’t win, and we should’ve in my opinion."
Throughout the match, the Gamecocks dealt with a familiar issue: inconsistency.
While South Carolina dominated Texas A&M during the second and third sets, South Carolina head coach Scott Swanson’s team was unable to play at a high level in the final two sets.
Junior Darian Dozier was puzzled herself about how she and her teammates could play so well but, at times, so poorly.
“Honestly, I don’t know what happened,” Dozier said. “Our passing wasn’t very good. We couldn’t get our setter options to set.”
South Carolina fell behind early, losing the first set 25-21. While the two teams were fairly evenly matched for much of the opening frame, Texas A&M was able to build a 21-16 lead as the Gamecocks struggled to field quality serves from the Aggies.
The second set was a different story, however.
South Carolina did a better job returning serves, and the Gamecock attack gave Texas A&M’s defense some problems.
Still, Texas A&M took a late lead 18-17 after a 4-0 run, but South Carolina was able to close out the set with a 8-5 rally of its own.
Determined to take a 2-1 lead, South Carolina came out firing in the third set and dominated the Aggies, winning 19-25.
The Gamecocks built up an 18-11 lead, thanks to a game-high team hitting percentage of .345 during the third set.
“During those two sets, I feel like we were just going after balls — we weren’t making as many errors,” Dozier said. “We were able to keep Kellie (McNeil) on the net with the ability to set. We weren’t relying on one person.”
Unfortunately for the Gamecocks, they missed a chance to put Texas A&M away in the fourth set and instead, played their worst frame of the day, committing 12 errors while having just 5 kills.
Moving on, South Carolina will travel to face Coastal Carolina on Tuesday.
Swanson believes that there was no real talent gap between the Gamecocks and the Aggies and that makes the loss even more upsetting.
“I think we’re very bit as talented, and on our home court we should have won that match,” Swanson said. “I told my staff that we didn’t even have to play great to win that match, we just had to play well.”