COLUMBIA, S.C. - Alabama volleyball needed just three sets to dispatch South Carolina Friday night at the Carolina Volleyball Center, sweeping the Gamecocks by set scores of 28-26, 25-19 and 25-22.
Alabama (18-11, 7-9 SEC) has now won six-straight matches over South Carolina (18-9, 6-9 SEC), stretching back to the 2013 season. The two teams went to extra points in the first set as Alabama came back to take the lead in the late stages of the frame before winning a comparatively decisive second set, 25-19. A late push by the Gamecocks in set three added some drama in the final points but Alabama ultimately persevered to win 25-22.
Krystal Rivers led all players with 19 kills, her second-highest total in a three-set match this season, which puts her just seven shy of tying the Alabama career kills record with two matches remaining in the regular season. Rivers also earned four of the team's seven service aces, tying a season-high. Shannon Mikesky and Alexa Tomlak split setting duties, earning 18 and 12, respectively, while Abolanle Onipede went error-free with a .385 hitting percentage, her second-highest total in SEC play.
The Gamecocks scored the first two points of the opening set and maintained a relatively slim lead until scoring three-straight points to slightly extend its lead to 14-10. South Carolina led by five at Alabama's first timeout, 16-11, but a late 3-1 run by the Tide cut the deficit to three points, 21-18, as South Carolina was forced to take a timeout following a block on the right side by Leah Lawrence and Rivers. Alabama continued to fight back and eventually tie the set at 23-23 on a kill up the middle by Hayley McSparin as South Carolina burned its final timeout. A Gamecock block on the next point gave the home team set point, 24-23, and the Tide took its final timeout before a USC attack error tied it back at 24-24. Alabama staved off two more set points by South Carolina before pulling ahead 27-26 on a Gamecock attack error and finishing off the lengthy set victory with a kill by Brittany Thomas, winning 28-26.
Set two was tightly contested with seven tie scores early on until South Carolina gained a slim 11-9 lead. Alabama responded with four-straight points, including a pair of aces by Rivers, to lead 13-11 and force the Gamecocks to take its first timeout. Leading by two later, 17-15, a kill by Lawrence made it a three-point game as South Carolina took its second timeout. Leading 18-16 two points later, Alabama closed out the set on a 7-3 run to win, 25-19, and take a 2-0 match lead.
Alabama got off to a hot start in set three, scoring four unanswered points to start the frame and pulling ahead 7-1 before South Carolina was forced to burn an early timeout. The Tide led by five at the halfway mark, 13-8, and a 3-1 run extended the lead to seven points at the Gamecocks' second timeout, 16-9. South Carolina started to trim the deficit with a 4-2 run and Alabama looked to slow the momentum with its first timeout of the set, leading 18-13. Alabama reached match point at 24-20 but South Carolina kept the match alive with back-to-back points as the Tide regrouped with a timeout leading 24-22. Rivers finished the match on the next point with her team-leading 19th kill of the night to give Alabama the 25-22 win and the three-set match victory.
Next up, Alabama plays its final home match of the season on Wednesday, Nov. 23 against Ole Miss (15-13, 4-11 SEC). The match, which is the Tide's senior night, is set for a 7 p.m. CT start.