STARKVILLE, MS. - Facing a 2-0 deficit on the road Friday night at Mississippi State, the South Carolina volleyball team had its biggest rally of the season and downed the Bulldogs (13-13, 4-8 SEC) in five sets, 24-26, 20-25, 25-22, 25-18, 15-13. Mikayla Shields and Dessaa Legros combined for 40 kills, and they joined Aubrey Ezell with double-doubles to pull out the win. The victory moves Carolina to 16-7 this season and 4-7 in conference action.
1st Set: The opening game was tight throughout, with neither side taking more than a three-point lead in the set. Megan Kirkland served the team up to a 7-6 lead thanks to three straight points and held the 15-14 lead at the media timeout, but Mississippi State took the lead back after scoring five of the next six points. South Carolina rallied to tie the set up at 21, and denied back-to-back set points for the Bulldogs, but could not find the lead again in a 26-24 loss to go down 1-0. Dessaa Legros had five kills to lead the offense, but the Gamecocks as a team hit just .212 in the set.
2nd Set: The home side took a commanding lead off the jump in set two, going up 7-2 before South Carolina was able to find its footing. It pared the lead down to just one, 10-9, before another 4-0 for the Bulldogs put them behind the eight ball at the midway point of the game. South Carolina got not closer than four points the rest of the way, finished the set hitting .171, and went into halftime down 2-0 after a 25-20 loss.
3rd Set: The Gamecocks earned some early confidence to kick off the must-win third set, taking a 11-5 lead after forcing Mississippi State into six hitting errors. After the home side cleaned up its offense, though, it crept back into the game and soon took the lead at 20-16 after a 6-0 run that was fueled by three straight hitting errors by the Gamecocks.
Not ready to pack up and leave just yet, Carolina pushed back with a 7-1 run to take a late 23-21 lead and force the Bulldogs into a timeout. Legros had three more kills of her own on the key run to push her to 11 for the match, and a dump kill from Aubrey Ezell iced the big comeback win to extend the match, 25-22. Ezell performed well in the game, after the team moved to a 5-1 (single setter) offense to start the third. She had a pair of kills and had a hand in a block.
4th Set: In almost a carbon copy of the previous frame, Carolina ran out to a big early lead in the fourth. Mikayla Shields served the team to a 3-0 lead and the Gamecocks went ahead 7-2 before Mississippi State closed the gap again to tie it at 11. An ace from Koko Atoa-Williams and a kill off an over pass from Jacqy Angermiller helped Carolina take the 15-12 lead at the media timeout. Two Bulldog points out of the break were quickly wiped out by a 6-1 run from Carolina that put it comfortably ahead 21-15 and it moved to the fifth set with a 25-18 win.
5th Set: South Carolina was able to get out for the critical early lead, 5-2, and held on to a two point advantage at the cross over after a kill from Claire Edwards made it 8-6. Mikayla Shields put down her 20th kill of the match and followed with a block two points later to keep Carolina ahead, 10-7.
Mississippi State answered back with a 5-1 run from there to take its first lead of the set at 12-11, forcing the Gamecocks into a timeout. After trading points, a kill from Angermiller tied the set up at 13 and put the Gamecocks at the serving line. Angermiller followed up her kill with a huge block on the very next play to put the Gamecocks on match point. As she had done consistently all night, Shields coolly put down her 23rd kill of the night to clinch the improbable comeback.
The team returns home Sunday for a 12:30 match against Georgia in the Carolina Volleyball Center. Fans can get in to the match for free when they bring a ticket stub from the football game Saturday. With women's basketball rescheduling its exhibition to Sunday at 1:30, fans looking to attend volleyball will have different parking than usual due to the game at Colonial Life Arena. Parking at the Strom Thurmond Wellness and Fitness Center is free, and parking in the B Lot will be free up until noon. After that, parking in the B Lot will cost $10.