The South Carolina volleyball team made its mark on the Palmetto Series, taking down rival Clemson 3-1 for its second victory of the year.
The Gamecocks beat the Tigers in a packed arena on Wednesday to reclaim its status as top dog in the state after losing to Clemson last season.
“It’s a big deal for our players, the state and our fans to make sure we take care of this matchup every year,” head coach Tom Mendoza said. “They're a team that keeps getting better, and we want volleyball in the state of South Carolina to keep getting better.”
Freshman outside hitter Campbell Paris, who played in all four sets, said the weight of the rivalry has already set in just three matches into her college career.
“I know how big of a rivalry it is,” Paris said. “I just want to do everything I can to put us in the best position to win.”
South Carolina came out swinging in the first set, setting the tone for the entire match. Senior outside hitter Riley Whitesides led the way for the Gamecocks, posting four kills and helping the team to an overall .256 hitting percentage for the set, its highest of the match.
“It's really the best feeling. Honestly, it means so much to me to be able to do that with my team,” Whitesides said. “That first set, I just kind of had the mindset of going out swinging, and that’s what really works for me.”
The Gamecocks went on to take the first set 25-20 as Tiger players struggled to maintain an offensive attack.
Clemson made the second set more interesting, however, adjusting its offense and changing things up on South Carolina. The Tigers put up big kills early and fast, leaving little time to adjust.
After Clemson led by as many as 9 points during the set, the Gamecocks began to loosen the Tigers' commanding grip on the lead. Late in the set, a huge kill from Paris sent fans to their feet as South Carolina managed to even the score at 22-22. However, Clemson did eventually secure the set 29-27 to tie the match at one set each.
Although his team was unable to take a set victory, Mendoza said the energy from the comeback fueled his team for the remainder of the night.
“Thankfully, we were able to use that momentum into the third,” Mendoza said. “Just the fact that we gave ourself a chance — hopefully we're not in that situation very often, but if we are, we have the faith in our group to come out and give ourselves at least a chance to win the set.”
From there, momentum swung in favor of the Gamecocks for a 25-15 third set where the Tigers managed a mere .065 hitting percentage.
South Carolina struck fast in the fourth set, but it was a must-win for Clemson. Late runs in the set knocked the Gamecocks' lead down to 2 points, but South Carolina would eventually buckle down, taking the fourth and final set 25-19.
The Gamecocks (2-1) will have a quick turnaround ahead as they host the Miami Hurricanes at home on Friday night. The match will be streamed on SEC Network+ with first serve scheduled for 7 p.m.