The Daily Gamecock

Analysis: Gamecock volleyball extends win streak with victories over Miami, Troy

<p>Sophomore setter Kimmie Thompson celebrates earning a point against Troy on Sept. 3, 2023. South Carolina is now 4-1 after two wins over the weekend at the Carolina Volleyball Center.</p>
Sophomore setter Kimmie Thompson celebrates earning a point against Troy on Sept. 3, 2023. South Carolina is now 4-1 after two wins over the weekend at the Carolina Volleyball Center.

The South Carolina volleyball team continued its winning ways this past weekend with two more wins over non-conference opponents, improving its overall record to 4-1. 

Game one

The Gamecocks kicked off the weekend with a thrilling five-set comeback victory against Miami. 


At different points throughout the match, South Carolina shined on both offense and defense, as the team demonstrated its all-around skill. Much like last Saturday's win over Towson, the Gamecocks also showed determination by holding onto close leads, as each set was decided by three points or fewer. 

The first set was defined by a 15-5 scoring run by Miami midway through the period that gave the Hurricanes enough momentum to take a 1-0 set advantage. Up to that point, South Carolina had held a lead two times in the early stages of the set, but despite some shorter scoring runs later in the set, the Gamecocks came up two points short of forcing a tiebreaker. 

South Carolina tied the match by claiming a second set where both teams failed to produce on offense — the Gamecocks' hitting percentage in the period was .111, and the Hurricanes' was just .063. South Carolina was forced to rely on its defense, which out-blocked Miami 8-2, and take advantage of its opponent's mistakes.

The Gamecocks carried positive momentum from the second set into the beginning of third, starting with 3 the first 4 points coming from junior outside hitter Lauren McCutcheon, who finished the match with a team-high 21 kills. South Carolina held the lead from the opening serve through much of the set but lost the last 4 points — including three errors — to fall behind 2-1.

The Gamecocks won a back-and-forth fourth set 25-23 but really took total control in the fifth. South Carolina led for the entire final set, hit .524 and registered 13 kills. With Miami needing one point to send the set into a third tiebreaker of the night, senior outside hitter Riley Whitesides registered her 17th to end the match and give the Gamecocks a third straight win.

Game two

Bookending the weekend, South Carolina was back in action against the Troy Trojans at home on Sunday, winning 3-1 in four sets. 

The Gamecocks fell short in the first set, losing 25-21 despite three kills from freshman outside hitter Campbell Paris, but South Carolina quickly turned things around in the second set and never looked back. Behind a .304 hitting percentage and five aces, the Gamecocks claimed set two 25-16.

In the third set, Paris's sixth kill of the match plus a fourth ace from freshman setter Sydney Floyd helped propel South Carolina to a 25-23 set victory and a 2-1 lead overall.

“(Paris is) approaching the game the right way, ... she's bringing a huge contribution to us both on the blocking and on the offensive side,” Mendoza said. "One of the big things is how much better she is just in the last month. ... It's important for her to keep developing."

Despite a late charge from the Trojans in the final frame, the Gamecocks pulled through to close out the match with a 27-25 victory in the fourth set. 

“I think we just wanted to keep getting better, obviously trying to string together four wins," head coach Tom Mendoza said. “We knew how good they are, so we wanted to make sure we came in focused and ... keep learning how to win.”

For the match, South Carolina made the difference with 18 blocks, 10 aces and 51 kills, stifling Troy's 13 blocks and three aces.

“Especially when our serve was able to get Troy out its system and limit how many options they had attacking,” Mendoza said. "Our defense didn't start out great, so our block was able to get us through until our defense was able to pick us up."

The Gamecocks have now rebounded from a season opening loss to go on a four-match winning streak, but each of those wins has come on its home court.

“We have the great opportunity to play at the Carolina Volleyball Center ... which we really enjoy, but we need to play the same way on the road,” Mendoza said.

What's next

South Carolina will return to action with a two-match roadtrip against Cincinnati on Friday and Saturday. Both games will be available for streaming on ESPN+.