The last time Tennessee volleyball played South Carolina they were swept in three sets. On Friday, the No. 22 Lady Vols got their revenge, as they took down the Gamecocks in four sets (25-21,17-25, 25-23, 26-24). With the win, the Lady Vols improved to 13-3 overall and 5-1 in the SEC.
Tennessee was led by Danielle Mahaffey, who ended the night with a hitting percentage of .600 and co-led the team in kills with 14 kills and 9 blocks. Graduate student Breanna Runnels was right with her with a double-double of her own, with 14 kills and 10 digs. Senior outside hitter Lily Felts would round the Lady Vols off with 13 kills, 12 digs and 2 blocks.
In the first set, both teams were quick to put up points. For the Gamecocks, the graduate student outside hitter Kyla Manning and freshman Lauren McCutcheon both were off to a hot start, each earning kills early against the Lady Vols. Tennessee would eventually score 4 unanswered points going up 10-6.
Tennessee’s senior middle blocker Mahaffey was influential in securing the Lady Vols’ lead in set one. Throughout the first set, Mahaffey was clicking on both sides of the ball, finding holes in South Carolina’s defense and scoring consistently. She led the Lady Vols in set one with 5 kills and also notched 2 blocks. The Gamecocks, playing behind most of the match, fought back to tie the set 19-19 and force a Tennessee timeout.
Fortunately for the Lady Vols, the Gamecock’s second effort was not enough to secure the win. The Orange and White took the first set 25-21.
Set two saw the Gamecocks dominate early and take advantage of the Lady Vols’ defense. South Carolina was in control early as it scored 4 unanswered points on Tennessee. The Lady Vols would call a timeout to adjust trailing 8-3.
After a slow start from Tennessee’s star outside hitters Runnels and Felts, they finally started to contribute by putting up points mid-way through the set. Going into the second timeout, Tennessee still trailed by as much as 7 points. Tennessee had a hard time containing South Carolina’s outside hitter Manning, as she was excellent at identifying gaps in the Lady Vols defense. The Lady Vols dropped the second set 25-17.
Going into set three, South Carolina continued to set the pace, and led the Lady Vols for most of the match. The momentum was all in the Gamecocks’ favor as the triple threat of Manning, Robinson and McCutcheon was too much for Tennessee.
The Lady Vols tried to mix up their rotation by putting in defensive specialist Laborda Paola and sophomore outside hitter Emily Merrick. Despite Tennessee trailing much of the match and down by as much as 6 points, they would fight back and bring the game within 2 points. The Gamecocks would call a timeout to regroup with the Lady Vols close behind.
The Lady Vols would score 7 unanswered points in a 9-1 run to win the set 25-23.
The fourth set was much of the same with the Gamecocks going up early just like in the previous sets. The Lady Vols were determined to keep the set close and wouldn’t allow the Gamecocks to grow another lead. The set was tied multiple times with both teams fighting to obtain a lead. In the first timeout, the Lady Vols held a slight 18-17 advantage.
The Gamecocks and the Lady Vols continued to stay even, with the match tied as late as 24-24. Runnels would be the difference maker, as the Lady Vols held on and took the game 26-24.
The Lady Vols will return to the Volleyball Competition Center Saturday to face the Gamecocks at 5 p.m. EST. Live coverage of the event will be provided on SEC Network+.