COLUMBIA, S.C. -- The Gamecock volleyball team continued their late-season surge Sunday afternoon, winning their third match in the last five outings with a 3-0 sweep of Ole Miss, 26-24, 25-21, 26-24. Senior Sarah Blomgren finished with 15 kills to drive the offense. The Gamecocks are now 10-14 overall this season, 3-8 in the SEC.
"I can't say enough about Sarah Blomgren and how far she has come as a person and a player, what she has meant to this team this year," head coach Scott Swanson said. "She can hit the line, she can hit the seam, she's become a better blocker... she was on point today and she's been doing that all year."
1st Set: The Gamecocks jumped ahead early, forcing a timeout from the Rebels after a 10-5 start to the set. Five different hitters would tag two or more kills in the set, led by Elizabeth Johnbull's three. That early lead would grow to 22-12 after Emma Lock served through a 7-0 run, but Ole Miss (19-7, 5-6 SEC) would not be dispatched that easily.
The visitors came into Sunday with the toughest service in the conference, and used that to their advantage during a late run. Kate Gibson would use a tough top-spin jump serve to keep the Gamecocks out of system and Ole Miss quickly pulled within two, 22-20 before Carolina burned its final timeout. The Gamecocks had a pair of chances to clinch the set that were denied and it would soon be 24-all, but a kill from Dessaa Legros put Aubrey Ezell in a position to clinch it with her serve, and she recorded the first of what would be three aces in the match to seal the 26-24 win.
2nd Set: Blomgren would come into her own in the second set and helped guide the team to a 2-0 advantage. Carolina led wire-to-wire in the set and jumped ahead 8-2 to force another early timeout for the Rebels. The passing of Joely Cabrera and Megan Kirkland helped deny Ole Miss from any significant run, and the two combined for seven digs in the set to fuel the offensive transitions. Carolina enjoyed its best-hitting set of the day, going for .333, and Blomgren chipped in six kills on just eight attacks.
3rd Set: Ole Miss pulled out all the stops to try and extend the match, leading to a dramatic ending to a set that featured 10 ties and four different lead changes. The Rebels held a 14-13 lead with the media timeout looming, but the Gamecocks were able to swing the momentum with a kill from Blomgren and an ace from Kirkland to hit the break with a lead.
Those two points would be the start of a 6-1 run that gave the home side some breathing room, but Ole Miss again would rally. With Gibson again on serve, it would get it back to 20-19. The two sides traded points back and forth until Kirkland would serve for the match in a 24-23 game. Ole Miss would get the sideout, but a kill from Blomgren and an attack error from Gibson would seal the sweep.
STAT OF THE MATCH
The Gamecocks were able to win in the serve-receive game, recording six aces with just eight errors. Ole Miss, who entered the match averaging a SEC-best 1.65 aces per set, had just four aces against Carolina while committing nine errors.
The team will hit the road for a pair of matches in the Heart of Dixie next weekend, starting Friday at Auburn before a Sunday afternoon match against Alabama. The Gamecocks lost 3-0 to the Tigers at home on Oct, 9, but all three sets were tight. Next Sunday will be the first matchup with the Crimson Tide this season.
Blomgren now has hit double-digit kills in six straight matches and has six 15-kill performances. In her last five matches, she is leading the team with 3.78 kills per set and is hitting .314.
Kirkland continues to play strong since taking over the role of libero. In the six matches since earning the full-time job, she is averaging 4.26 digs per set and has a serve reception percentage of .968.
In her return after missing the match against Florida, Darian Dozier had six kills with a pair of blocks. She now moves into a tie for third in school history in block assists, with 358.
This is the second straight win where the team has been outhit by the opposition. Before the win over Arkansas, the team was 0-12 when hitting at a lower percentage. Carolina is now 27-17 all-time against Ole Miss and 17-8 at home.
The Rebels had won three of the previous four matchups at the Carolina Volleyball Center.
QUOTABLE: HEAD COACH SCOTT SWANSON
On the team's adjustments to win the rematch "We've matured since then, we've got a lot of our young players and like I was telling them yesterday that they're not freshmen anymore. We've been through over half of the (SEC) season and we're just playing more calmly, following the game plan better, executing the skills better, our mentality is definitely better. It's all about maturity and I think it showed today. We played with more poise."