The Daily Gamecock

Volleyball hosts Alabama looking to gain ground in SEC


After suffering two consecutive conference road losses, the South Carolina volleyball team has to figure out how to stop the bleeding before it hosts Alabama Sunday.

The disappointing weekend dropped the Gamecocks (15-9, 5-6 SEC) in the standings, leaving them in a three-way tie for seventh place in the conference. A loss against the surging Crimson Tide (19-5, 7-3 SEC) would almost cripple South Carolina’s chances of bouncing back in the standings, with the team still having to play two of the top conference teams in the remaining six games.

Head coach Scott Swanson said preparation for the upcoming Alabama rematch is a little “unorthodox,” as the coaching staff changed things up to get the team back healthy. With injuries taking a toll on the Gamecocks, the staff wanted to use this week to give the players some time to heal.

“We had a lot of kids who are injured, sick and coming back from injury, and we’ve had a rough road trip where we lost because of injuries,” Swanson said. “So we decided as a staff, because we only had one match this week, we gave them three days off.

The team’s first practice wasn’t until Thursday, allowing the players to use the three off days to see doctors, rehab and rest their bodies. But the time off wasn’t totally an off day, as Swanson still had the team watch game film on their own time.

One game South Carolina was sure to watch was its previous match against Alabama. 

After losing in Tuscaloosa in four sets less than a month ago, South Carolina used all week to prepare to even the score against Alabama when they visit the Carolina Volleyball Center.  

Though the Tide are in a three-game winning streak, Swanson says the Gamecocks have a chance to win if they come into the match focused after their break.

“It would be an upset if we beat Alabama, but it’s not out of the question,” he said. “We have a shot to beat Alabama here if we come back healthy, refreshed and mentally prepared to do what it takes.”

Swanson will have to rely on his role players if starters like sophomore Jacqy Angermiller, who’s missed the last five games, still aren’t able to suit up just yet. Swanson has said that the role players have been “crucial” to the team and that they have to be prepared to go if their name is once again called on. 

South Carolina’s conference finish won’t just be in the hands of the role players, but it will also be up its starters providing vocal leadership.

Junior Darian Dozier is one of the healthy starters ready to go, and the Gamecocks hope she continues to limit opponents' scoring opportunities. 

Dozier boasts an average of 1.09 conference blocks per set this season, ranking her third in the conference. Along with guarding the net, Dozier has been one of those leaders who has blocked any morale drop by voicing to the team that they aren’t the only team struggling with hardships.

“We have been a lot more vocal with everyone in what we expect," Dozier said. “We’re not unique to the situation of having injuries to the team, so we just have to play through it.”

Swanson said he believes his team is continuing to fight, but knows the difficulties of beating quality teams with injured starters. Facing four of the last six games on the road doesn’t help the Gamecocks’ chances of catapulting into the top four. 

Even with a tough schedule, South Carolina is only a couple of games back from being within the top tier of the conference, a thought that’s given Dozier optimism of a good team finish.   

“We need to keep going and get through the adversities that we’re experiencing and just finish strong,” Dozier said. “It’s good to end on a good note and know you gave it everything you can.”