KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Led by a career-high 16 kills and three aces by freshman middle hitter Erica Treiber, Tennessee rallied for a 3-2 (20-25, 26-24, 21-25, 25-21, 15-9) victory over South Carolina on Sunday at Thompson-Boling Arena.
"I was really proud of the way we came back in this match," Tennessee head coach Rob Patrick said. "We showed a lot of resilience after coming out a little flat. My hat's off to South Carolina. They played very hard and made us raise our game to another level, and we did."
Tennessee (18-5, 4-4 SEC) raised its defense in the final two sets, eventually out-digging South Carolina (8-13, 1-7) 83-80. Junior Bridgette Villano matched her career high with 28 digs, and Kanisha Jimenez added 13 digs and seven kills. Megan Hatcher had a season-high 12 digs.
After three consecutive home matches, Tennessee is back on the road with matches at Ole Miss on Friday and Mississippi State on Sunday. The match Sunday will be televised by the SEC Network.
Coming out of the break, South Carolina won the third set to take a 2-1 lead in the match. The fourth set proved to be the turning point for Tennessee.
The Vols went on a 3-0 run midway through the set, and Treiber put away a shot to give Tennessee a 15-13 lead. South Carolina pulled within a point a 19-18, but Tennessee jumped back ahead with a 4-0 run. Sophomore Kelsey Bawcombe, who entered the game to serve several times, recorded an ace to put Tennessee up 23-18.
The Vols eventually won the set, 25-21, to set up just their second five-set match of the season. The had won their first, a set-down comeback over Towson in the second match of the year.
Tennessee led wire-to-wire in the shortened fifth set. Megan Hatcher served an ace to put Tennessee up 8-3, and the Vols wrapped up the match the match on a 3-0 run to cap the win at 15-9.
The UT defense slowed down the South Carolina offense in the final two sets, holding the Gamecocks to a .116 hitting percentage in the fourth set and .000 in the fifth. Dessaa Legros led South Carolina with 20 kills and Sarah Blomgren added 20.
Four Vols had at least 10 kills in the match. Treiber led the way with 16 kills, hitting .452 for the match. Kendra Turner had 11 kills and Raina Hembry and Bri Holmes finished with 10 each.
Senior setter Lexi Dempsey was a dig away from a double-double, ending with 48 assists and nine digs.
South Carolina jumped out to an early lead in the match. The Gamecocks pulled ahead with a 6-0 run to take a 14-9 lead and never looked back. Legros recorded a kill to end the set 25-20. South Carolina hit .200 while Tennessee hit just .094.
The second set came down to the wire. Tennessee saved one set point with a kill by Hembry to tie the set at 24-24. The Vols won the next two points as a Bri Holmes kill sealed the set, 26-24.
South Carolina gained control midway through the set with a 6-0 run to go ahead 16-13. The Gamecocks led by as many as seven points before Legros again finished the set at 25-21.