The Gamecocks started off their two-game series against Alabama getting swept 0-3, but the team bounced back for a 3-0 sweep the next day. As the score implies, the two games featured drastically different styles of play from the Gamecocks.
The Gamecocks fell in three straight sets to the Crimson Tide as a result of a resilient ‘Bama offense paired with a weak Carolina defense, particularly on the front line.
The Alabama tide started off a relatively dominant offensive showing early in its match against the Gamecocks. Though the Tide's .286 hit percentage in the first set didn't indicate an outstanding offense, it was evident to anyone watching that – with how the Gamecocks were defending – it was more than enough.
The Gamecocks sloppy defense affected the team's offense as well. The team recorded 17 attacking errors throughout the match.
The second and third set told a similar story for the Gamecocks and ‘Bama, both going to the Tide.
The Gamecocks slowly began getting better third hits but as they started hitting better, the Tide’s offense further picked apart their defense. Alabama hit .367 and .538 in sets two and three, respectively, while the Gamecocks only moved up to .286 and .308.
The primary issue with the Gamecocks all throughout game one was their back row defense. Carolina’s 29 digs, compared to Alabama’s 44, are a great indicator of how well the Tide took advantage of the poor contests. While it was good that the Gamecocks started hitting better each set, their poor blocking put too much pressure on the back row.
“We struggled with defense,” freshman outside hitter Lauren McCutcheon said post-game. “We just needed more energy and just to have fun and be glad we’re playing volleyball.”
The Gamecocks completely flipped the script the following day, sweeping Alabama 3-0 in their rematch. In less than 24 hours, the Gamecocks offense and defense completely revitalized itself.
Just a glance at the box scores of the two games and one can already see the difference in play between the two teams. However, that doesn’t fully tell how much faster and coordinated the Gamecocks played in this game compared to their previous one.
Set one was the most dominant performance out of all sets this weekend. Coming off a sweep, one would likely see no fault in the Gamecock’s coming off slowly, but their defense came fully prepared to deal with ‘Bama. The effort was fully realized in Bama’s .031 set one hit percentage.
The Gamecocks further reaped the benefits of a good defense in set one by now having a
stronger offense because of the easier digs placed on the backline. Carolina hit .464 for set one because the cleaner receives due to the good net pressure lead into easier sets, helping hitters get to their spots and strike accurately.
The last two sets saw the losing team gradually hit better and the winning team do the opposite, similar to the previous night. The Gamecocks were hitting worse with each set because of the longer lasting points, as indicated by their 32 and 39 kill attempts in sets two and three, respectively, compared to 28 kill attempts in set one.
Freshman setter Claire Wilson had a big night in just her second match being the primary setter, registering 42 assists. She was a big factor in changing the tide for Carolina as she was moving around with purpose on throughout all three sets, cleanly setting up her hitters for easy kills.
“I feel like collectively as a team we all went home and thought about what we could do and how we could come together better as a team,” Wilson said postgame. “Today we came in here with the fire and will to win and that was the difference.”
South Carolina is now 12-8 overall and 4-6 in the SEC, and will travel to Ole Miss to play on Friday at 7 p.m.