The South Carolina Gamecocks went 3-0 during the Palmetto Showdown Tournament, beating Clemson once and UCF twice this weekend.
The Gamecocks defeated the University of Central Florida Knights Thursday night in a 3-0 sweep.
Both teams traded points back and forth to start the first set, tying the score at 8 until South Carolina went on a five-point run, forcing a UCF timeout.
The team went on to win the first set 25-18, led by graduate outside-hitter Kyla Manning who finished the match with 14 kills.
The Gamecocks never trailed in the second set, winning 25-14.
South Carolina began the third set with a great start, leading the Knights 6-1. The lead wouldn’t last long, as UCF's McKenna Melville racked up 11 kills in this set, eventually taking the lead 23-22, leading to a South Carolina timeout.
Coming out of the timeout, the Knights landed another kill giving them a set point at 24-22.
With the pressure on, the Gamecocks got 3 straight kills giving them the lead and set point at 25-24. UCF answered and the two teams traded points.
South Carolina then scored 2 straight points with a kill from Manning and then a block by Manning and redshirt senior middle blocker Mikayla Robinson gave the Gamecocks the third set and the match.
To Manning, the team's chemistry is a big part of why they come out with such intensity every night.
“I think this year we have a really special group. We have so much fun in the locker room," Manning said. "We all love each other and it really shows before the game how much that affects us on the court."
The Gamecocks will be looking to continue to build on that chemistry as the season progresses.
In the second game of the weekend series, the Gamecocks faced Clemson and swept the team.
The Gamecocks ran away with the first set going on an 8 point run, fueled by Robinson's 4 kills, and the Tigers' multiple service errors, giving the Gamecocks plenty of second-chance opportunities, which they took advantage of, winning the set 25-24.
The second set was much closer with both teams trading points back and forth. The Gamecocks battled the Tigers to the end, winning the set by just 2 points.
The third set was another domination by the Gamecocks going on a run early in the set. South Carolina went up by 10 after a kill by freshman Lauren McCutcheon, who had 7 digs and 8 kills, making the score 17-7. The Gamecocks went on a four-point streak to end the set 25-12.
UCF sought to avenge Thursday’s loss in the Gamecocks' final match of the tournament on Friday night. Despite its efforts, South Carolina proved too much for the Knights to handle, winning 3-1.
The teams traded blows early in the first set. South Carolina eventually took a 6 point lead and won the set 25-19. Manning made a large impact in the first set, recording 5 kills and 4 digs.
The Knights came out of the break diving for every ball they could, allowing them to keep plays alive and score points. They built a quick 9-4 lead, forcing the Gamecocks to call timeout.
South Carolina came out of the timeout and immediately put the pressure back on the Knights. It tied the set at 9, and from there, the teams exchanged points. Then with the set tied at 15, the Gamecocks started pulling away. The team went on to win the set 25-20.
In the third set, the teams exchanged points again and tied the game at 14. UCF outscored the Gamecocks 11-7 to end the set winning 25-21.
The fourth set was the most intense of the match. Both teams were running around, diving after balls, doing anything they could to give their team the advantage. Nearing the end of the set, the teams were tied at 16. Suddenly, UCF went on a 3-1 run forcing South Carolina to call a timeout.
Coming out of the timeout, the Gamecocks quickly scored two points, forcing UCF to call their own timeout. Meanwhile, the energy in the room was building.
The Gamecocks continued to score and the crowd continued to get louder. After two more quick points and South Carolina took the lead. The crowd went crazy and the Gamecocks had all the momentum. The team never looked back and won 25-23, clinching the match win.
“There was some high-level volleyball for a large majority of the night," head coach Tom Mendoza said. "I love the resiliency and to battle a good team."
The Gamecocks improved their record to 5-1 on the season. South Carolina will hit the road for the first time this season on Thursday when they travel to play Kennesaw State.
Correction (Sept. 5, 2021, at 2:14 p.m.): The photo's caption stated sophomore defensive specialist Caitlin Crawford was returning the volleyball. Sophomore blocker Ellie Ruprich returned the volleyball.