COLUMBIA, S.C. - The athletic prowess of senior Dessaa Legros has been known to Gamecock faithful for years, but on Friday night the outside hitter turned in an all-time great performance to help guide South Carolina (15-6, 3-6 SEC) to a win over LSU (7-14, 2-8 SEC). Legros hit a career-high 26 kills with a .429 hitting percentage to will the team to a four-set win over the Tigers (25-20, 23-25, 25-22, 25-23).
1st Set: The opening game was all about the offense for South Carolina, as the team combined for a .394 hitting percentage and 18 kills to win 25-20. Legros had five kills, but it was actually Mikayla Shields who stole the show early on. The freshman had six kills on just seven swings to power the attack, and LSU was unable to stop the Gamecocks barrage from the wings. The Tigers were able to tie the set up at 16, but a 4-0 run from there broke the suspense for Carolina, who pulled away from there.
2nd Set: Both teams slugged it in the second set, but LSU was able to hang on for the equalizer before halftime. The Tigers out-hit Carolina .342 to .325 and saw outside hitter Toni Rodriguez complete the set with seven kills. There would be nine total ties, but South Carolina just wasn't able to get the run it needed to pressure LSU. Legros and Atoa-Williams finished with five kills in the game, but it would be 1-1 heading into the break after a 25-23 win for the visitors.
3rd Set: The third set would be even more contentious, as the two teams battled for the all-important 2-1 lead. There were four lead changes and 11 ties in the third, but the unstoppable force that was Dessaa Legros powered the Gamecocks to a 25-22 win. The senior had an eye-popping nine kills in the set, hitting .615, and many would come early on as the two sides jockeyed for a lead. South Carolina held a 15-12 lead at the media timeout, but LSU ran off six of the next eight points in the game to take an 18-17 lead and force the Gamecocks into a timeout. Out of the break, Aubrey Ezell served tough and forced a pair of over passes that were killed by Carolina. That would be all the momentum needed as the home side held on for the win.
4th Set: Looking to close out the win, South Carolina rode the right arm of Legros for one more set - and she would deliver seven more kills. The Gamecocks used a 5-1 run to break a 10-all tie, and held the Tigers at an arm's length the rest of the way. Though LSU would tie things up late in the frame, at 21 and 22, they would not take the lead after that early run. A kill from none other than Legros broke the deadlock at 22, and Alicia Starr sent the fans home happy with a kill to clinch the win.
STAT OF THE MATCH
Not only did Legros have a career night in total kills, but the senior pin also hit .429 over her 49 attempts and had five digs and made zero errors in serve receive despite being the main target for the Tiger servers all night.
Legros' 26 kills are tied for the fifth most in a four-set match in the rally-scoring era (since 2001). The last Gamecock to have more was Juliette Thevenin on Sept. 21, 2013. Koko Atoa-Williams continues to heat up down the stretch, the senior had 12 kills and eight digs Friday against LSU. Over the last three matches, she is averaging 3.10 kills and 3.19 digs per set. Mikayla Shields quietly tallied her second double-double of the season, finishing the match with 13 kills and 11 digs. The win over LSU is the second this season; the Gamecocks had not won back-to-back meetings over the Tigers since 2008. Along with the match being the team's Dig Pink game, it was also Alumni Night for South Carolina. In all, 15 former players and staff were in attendance, including the program's three Hall of Famers - Ashley (Edlund) Heidtke, Heather Larkin and Shonda Cole. QUOTABLE: HEAD COACH SCOTT SWANSON
On Dessaa Legros' performance "I think her all-around game was just clicking. She passed a 2.5, which is about as good as you could expect and she's not normally one of our better passers. Tonight, she just took it on, and I think because of her confidence in handling that first ball she just caught fire as a hitter... I can't say enough about the effort she put in, she made sure we were going to win the match tonight."
The team will remain home for its Sunday match, welcoming in Texas A&M for a 4 p.m. showdown on the SEC Network. The two teams met just two weeks ago, with the Aggies sweeping Carolina in College Station. A&M is coming off a major win, knocking off conference leader Missouri in four sets on Wednesday night.