COLUMBIA, S.C. - The South Carolina volleyball team overcame a first-set loss to defeat Auburn Sunday afternoon at home. The Gamecocks, now 17-6 overall and 8-5 in SEC play, have their highest conference win total in a decade and earned their first weekend sweep of SEC rivals since Sept. 30.
SET 1: Auburn (10-13, 3-10 SEC) was able to jump ahead early behind tough service, and were able to string the advantage out to a 25-21 win and a 1-0 lead. A pair of aces from Brenna McIlroy highlighted a 6-0 run from the Tigers, helping the visitors build a 7-2 lead. Thanks to an offense that finished hitting .400, the Tigers were able to side-out the Gamecocks at a rate of 80 percent, limiting any hopes of a comeback for South Carolina.
SET 2: It would be a big early run for South Carolina that keyed the team to a 25-19 win in set two that evened the match up at 1-1. Out of a 3-3 tie, the Gamecocks ran off seven of the next eight points to take the lead for good. Auburn would get no closer than three points for the remainder of the set, and South Carolina leaned on a balanced offense to put the set out of reach. Courtney Furlong led the team with four kills, with Mikayla Shields, Mikayla Robinson and Brittany McLean also pitching in multiple kills.
SET 3: The South Carolina attack had its best game in the third set, putting away 16 kills to just eight for Auburn in a 25-17 win. The Gamecocks turned a game-high 14 digs into an offense that out-hit the Tigers .303 to .143. McLean put away six kills on 10 swings, and Robinson pitched in four kills out of the middle. Behind the service of Jess Vastine, the team ran off a 9-1 run early in the set to break out of a 4-all tie, and the Tigers would not be able to recover.
SET 4: Auburn miscues would fuel a blowout in the fourth set, as the Gamecocks would lead by as much as 13 in a 25-14 win that closed out the match. Keeping with the theme of the match, it would be an early run that defined the set. Out of an Auburn side-out, the Gamecocks went on an 11-0 run to push ahead, 16-3, on the Tigers. It was self-inflicted issues for the visitors, who hit .034 with six unforced attack errors in the game. Shields would not make life any easier, though, as the junior put away five kills and three aces in the set. South Carolina would hit .310 for the set, fueled by a back-line defense that popped up 12 digs - six coming from Addie Bryant.
- The win Sunday snapped Auburn's five-game win streak on South Carolina's home court.
- Now 8-5 in conference play, the Gamecocks have the most SEC wins since 2008, when that group went 12-8.
- The Gamecocks are now 10-1 at home this season, the eighth year with double-digit wins in team's 23 seasons competing in the Carolina Volleyball Center. The six SEC home wins are the most since 2008.
- Mikayla Shields ended the weekend with a .314 hitting percentage and 32 kills over nine sets. Sunday, she was presented with a commemorative game ball to recognize her 1,000th career kill. Set back on Oct. 24, she is one of 15 Gamecocks to ever reach 1,000 kills.
- Aubrey Ezell moved into third place for career digs in the program's all-time history. She now stands at 1,337 for her career, passing Hannah Lawing (previously 3rd; 2007-10) and Jodi Thompson (previously 4th; 1991-94) this weekend.
- With her ace Sunday, Ezell also tied Florida's Carli Snyder's 2017 total of 57 for most service aces by any SEC student-athlete over the last decade.
- With 10 kills Sunday, Mikayla Robinson recorded double-digit kills for the first time this season. For the weekend, the sophomore middle hit .429 with 22 total kills. Robinson also moved into the top ten for most career total blocks in the rally-scoring era, now with 198.
STAT OF THE MATCH: The South Carolina offense was deadly efficient on Sunday, committing just eight unforced attack errors over the four sets. Auburn would commit 17 on the other side of the net. The Gamecocks' .288 hitting percentage as a team was its third highest in SEC play this season, and sixth highest overall.
UP NEXT: It will be just one match on the schedule for the team next week, but it will be a tough one. The Gamecocks travel to College Station on Friday night for a match at Texas A&M. The Aggies have never dropped a set to South Carolina on their home floor, but the Gamecocks did take the win in Columbia back on Oct. 7.