The South Carolina Gamecocks volleyball team went 1-1 during this weekend's Hurricane Invitational in Coral Gables, Florida, beating Miami on Friday and losing to Oregon on Saturday.
South Carolina won its first game of the Hurricane Invitational Friday after edging out the Miami Hurricanes in a close 3-2 match.
Miami is fresh off an NCAA tournament appearance in 2021 and added eight true freshmen to the team. Coming into the game, Hurricane Senior middle blocker Janice Leao had the second-best hit percentage in the ACC, with her current hit percentage resting at .399.
South Carolina's junior middle-blocker Ellie Ruprich is coming off matching a school record of blocks in a three-set match after recording nine in a win over Cincinnati on Sept. 9 and receiving SEC defensive player of the week for her performances against the Bearcats last week.
The first set saw the Hurricanes get off to a hot start, jumping out to a quick 9-2 lead. However, the Gamecocks were much improved after a timeout and were able to take momentum for the set.
“We got off to a little bit of a slow start," coach Tom Mendoza said. "Once we started playing our style, the way we're capable of, that we were going to have a chance to go on some runs."
Some well-placed serves from the Gamecocks and errors from the Hurricanes saw South Carolina take its first lead off the set at 19-18. South Carolina’s junior outside hitter Riley Whitesides' 5 kills would lead the Gamecocks to a 25-23 set one win.
Deja vu struck in set two, with the Hurricanes jumping out to a 9-4 lead, only for South Carolina to make another run, tying the set at 14. The two teams played neck and neck until the set was tied at 22-all. The Gamecocks took a two-set to zero lead after ending on a 3-0 run capped off by a Ruprich block at the net, scoring the 25th point of the set. Ruprich ended the game with seven total blocks.
Miami took control of the third set after changing its attacking style, with soft touches over the net favored over the powerful spike. This change saw Miami reach its highest hit percentage of the night so far, hitting .351. The Hurricanes were able to take this set 25-20 and a fourth set 25-13.
In the deciding set, it was the Gamecocks who rose to the occasion. Senior outside hitter McKenzie Moorman was crucial in the set, finding the right spots through the Miami block. She finished with 17 kills, a game-high for both teams.
“We trust Mckenzie and Riley to take those swings,” Mendoza said. “They stayed aggressive.”
This aggressiveness helped the Gamecocks finish out the game and fight off the Hurricane's comeback, taking the set 15-10 and the match.
The Gamecocks failed to match blows with No. 20 Oregon Saturday, losing 3-0. The Ducks dominated the match and won all three sets by at least 7 points.
Oregon claimed the first set 25-15. The Gamecocks could not keep up with the Ducks' attacks in this set, causing them to find themselves trailing early. In the set, Oregon recorded 15 kills, while the Gamecocks had just six.
The second set of the game was the closest, ending in a 25-18 Ducks victory. The third set was the least competitive with Oregon winning 25-14.
The Ducks were just better than the Gamecocks on the day. Its hit percentage was better, .368 as opposed to .103 and it recorded six more blocks, nine more digs and 21 more kills than South Carolina. The Gamecocks' mistakes were costly as they recorded five more errors than the Ducks.
Senior outside-hitter Brooke Nuneviller was a difference maker for the Ducks, recording 19 kills and a .621 hit percentage. Opposite senior Gloria Mutiri also recorded double-digit kills with 13 on a .550 hit percentage.
Senior outside-hitter McKenzie Moorman had the biggest impact for the Gamecocks, scoring eight kills.
The Gamecocks return home next week the begin SEC play when the team welcomes Florida for a two-game series Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. The games can be viewed on SEC network+.