The Tennessee Volleyball team (9-9, 3-5 SEC) heads to Columbia, South Carolina on Friday for a conference showdown with the South Carolina Gamecocks (11-8, 3-4 SEC).
“We have talked a lot about South Carolina, more than we usually do about an opponent,” said head coach Eve Rackham. “I feel like it is an opponent that we need to prepare for, they have played really well at home, and it is actually a gym that our staff has never been in. They have a lot of weapons, and I feel that they are a pretty similar team to us, so we have prepared for them quite a bit.
“We know that they have the ability to set the middle up, and they have a very good veteran on the right side.”
Tennessee is coming off of a match that saw them losing their fifth SEC matchup of the season, this time against the Missouri Tigers in four sets, (14-25, 16-25, 25-18, 14-25). The loss this past Sunday snapped a three-match winning streak against Missouri.
Tessa Grubbs put up a match-high 20 kills while also hitting a team-best 436 on 39 swings. She was the lone Lady Vol to notch double-digit kills.
The Tigers held the Tennessee offense at bay in the first two sets, but once Danielle Mahaffey moved to middle blocker in the third set, the Lady Vols hit .552, their highest in a single set during conference play. Grubbs and Mahaffey both had five kills in the third set, while freshman Morgahn Fingall tallied three kills.
South Carolina was swept in their most recent match against No.13 Florida, (25-17, 25-19, 25-19). Mikayla Robinson lead every hitter with 12 kills and hit efficiently with a .556 clip. Florida proved to be too much as they hit .368 as a unit for the night.
“They can attack from both pins well and from the middle,” said Rackham. “If they are in good situations, then they will be tough to defend 'cause they have point scorers across the board. They are also a very experienced team as they have a lot of older kids. For us, playing on the road against an experienced team like that will prove to be a challenge.”
Florida’s first 15 points came off of 12 kills and later in the match and went on a 6-1 run to put the set out of reach for South Carolina. In the first set alone, Florida out-hit South Carolina .548 to .267 and finished with a higher kill total that stood at 19-12.
The Gamecocks rebounded offensively in the second set as Jess Vastine and Kylee Stokes each contributed a kill and ace. Mikayla Robinson notched all six of her kills in the second set. However, even with a 10-7 kill advantage, Florida was able to pull away with the set.
“We are looking to get some confidence out of this match,” said Alyssa Andreno. “We are looking to put on a good show. We just want to prove to ourselves that we are still in this thing, especially since we have a lot of season left. We still have so many opportunities to get better, and hopefully, we can do that -- get confidence and get a win on the road.”
Tennessee will look to continue seeing development from their freshman Fingall and Kailey Keeble. Fingall has recorded seven blocks over her last two matches and tallied three in the Lady Vols previous match. For Keeble, she has started the last three matches and finished with a stat line of 10 assists and six digs against the Tigers.