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Libero Madison Bryant (12) passes the ball in serve receive in Thompson-Boling Arena on September 5th, 2021.

The Tennessee volleyball team has a challenging weekend ahead of them, as they get ready to head to Columbia, South Carolina, to match up against the Gamecocks Friday. The Lady Vols look to bounce back from their first SEC loss of the season in the two-game away series.

The No. 22 Lady Vols (12-3) enter the halfway point of the season in relatively good positioning. Tennessee currently holds the second-best record in the SEC (4-1) and was recently ranked seventh overall in the latest RPI poll. The team has been very solid on both sides of the ball and rarely makes mistakes. After dropping the game against the Aggies, the Lady Vols hope to pick up two important wins on the road.

“We’ve continued to talk about how good this team is and how good we can be and how we have to buy into that growth and the process of evolving,” head coach Eve Rackham Watt said. “We have a lot of seniors and juniors that play for us. I think the identity that we have found is that we can score at a lot of different places — which is new for us. We're an offensively driven team.”

The Gamecocks (11-3) come into this matchup red-hot, winning five of their last six games. In the NCAA’s most recent RPI poll South Carolina was ranked 20th overall. South Carolina has been able to take three wins against teams ranked in the top-40 of that list.

Over the weekend, South Carolina took down Missouri in both games, with one of the victories coming in three sets. The Gamecocks hope to carry this momentum into Friday, as they return home to host the Lady Vols. They hold an impressive 7-1 record at home.

The Gamecocks are led offensively by graduate student Kyla Manning. The outside/left side hitter notched 29 kills over the two games against Missouri and has been a consistent scorer all season. South Carolina has several underclassmen that play a large role as well, like freshmen talent Lauren McCutcheon and sophomore Ellie Ruprich.

“I think they’re a good team,” Rackham Watt said of the Gamecocks. “They got a good middle and two outsides that know how to score just like A&M who we just played. Obviously, we couldn’t figure it out against them, so we’ll have to Friday.”

The last time the Lady Vols played the Gamecocks was back in 2020, where they split the series 1-1. In the first game, Tennessee dominated taking all but one set in the 3-1 victory. The tables turned in the second game with South Carolina sweeping Tennessee 3-0.

The opening pitch will be held at South Carolina’s Volleyball Competition Center Friday at 7 p.m. EST.

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