The Daily Gamecock

Analysis: South Carolina volleyball picks up hard fought victory against Mississippi State

The South Carolina volleyball team battled Mississippi State Wednesday night Oct. 19, 2022, in a back-and-forth bout that ended with a win for Carolina. South Carolina defeated Mississippi State 3-2.  The South Carolina volleyball team rallied in the fifth set after beginning the match 2-0 to defeat Mississippi State. Despite trouble with offense errors, the Gamecocks improve to 4-4 in the SEC. Photos captured by Hannah Flint | The Daily Gamecock.

The South Carolina volleyball team overcome offensive errors and rallied in the fifth set to defeat Mississippi to improve to 4-4 in the SEC. 

"We take pride in winning games at home," head coach Tom Mendoza said. "Giving the people that come and support us something to cheer for ... it is really important to us."

The Gamecocks played a close game in set one edging out the Bulldogs 25-21. 

Both teams struggled in the first set to maintain its hitting percentage above .250. After a commanding kill from junior outside hitter Riley Whitesides, the Gamecocks were the first to hit above .200. 

The second set continued in a similar fashion when the Gamecocks took and maintained an early lead. They capitalized off of the Bulldog's 11 attacking errors in the set while the Gamecocks only recorded four. South Carolina took the second set 25-18.  

The Gamecocks also recorded 11 kills in the second set hitting .269, its highest percentage of the night. The Bulldogs were unable to match the Gamecocks offensively posting a -.107 hitting percentage.  

However, in the third set, the Bulldogs changed its line-up entirely and changed its strategy. They took a more aggressive approach on the attacking side than they had in the first two sets.  

The Gamecocks were up 20-18 in the third set with an excellent opportunity to score, but the Bulldogs went on a four-point run to put the Gamecocks in a difficult position. Mississippi State went on to win the third set 25-22.  

“It was a stretch of about 10 bad points at the end of the third set where we didn’t close it out and then that, unfortunately we let that carry into the fourth set,” Mendoza said. “We didn’t regroup fast enough.”  

The Gamecocks struggled to respond to the line-up change and that allowed the Bulldogs to take an early commanding lead. 

Mississippi State recorded its highest hitting percentage in the fourth set of .294, while South Carolina failed to provide any response to a newly strategized offense posting only a .028 hitting percentage.  

It was in the fourth set that the Gamecocks lost by the largest margin falling 25-16 to the Bulldogs. The Bulldogs were able to able to take advantage of eight errors and only nine kills, the Gamecocks' worst in any set. 

Going into the fifth set, the Gamecocks knew it needed to rally in order to secure the victory against its conference opponent.  

Head Coach Tom Mendoza coaches his team following the first quarter of their match against Mississippi State on Oct. 19, 2022. South Carolina defeated Mississippi 3-2.
Head Coach Tom Mendoza coaches his team following the first quarter of their match against Mississippi State on Oct. 19, 2022. South Carolina defeated Mississippi 3-2.

“We stopped executing, or stopped remembering, how we wanted to defend (Mississippi State),” Mendoza said. "As poorly as we did regrouping into the fourth set, we did that good of a job in the fifth set coming back and doing a lot of the stuff that made us successful at the beginning of the night”.  

In the final set, the Gamecocks recorded seven kills, one ace and three blocks to finish off the Bulldogs and win the match 15-12.  

Whitesides led both in points and errors for the Gamecocks but said ultimately the team was able to pull through “because we took over our mindset."

“We were mad ... they don’t need to do that to us on our home court. We decided that we needed to protect this house, we need to flip a switch,” Whitesides said. 

Following a doubleheader loss on the road to Tennessee, Mendoza and the Gamecocks were able to bounce back and earn a victory on its home court. 

“It was great to get a win in the SEC," Mendoza said. "There is a big pack of teams ... that are still in contention for an at-large bid and we are in that pack. So anytime we can get a win, it is a huge deal both in conference standings and as far as building a resume for the NCAA at-large bid”. 

The Gamecocks improve to a record of 10-8 overall and will hit the road and take on LSU in Baton Rouge on Sunday, Oct. 23 at 2 p.m.

Correction (Oct. 21, 2022 at 10:50 a.m.): A previous version of this story incorrectly referred to MSU as Georgia. The story has been updated to reflect the correct team.