KNOXVILLE, TENN. - South Carolina (4-2) volleyball remedied a loss to Tennessee Friday night with a dominant full-team effort Saturday afternoon, picking up a road sweep of the Volunteers (2-4), 25-16, 25-23, 25-23. The Gamecock defense posted 10 total blocks, nine of which freshman Ellie Ruprich had a hand in, and on offense the team committed 13 fewer errors than the opposition. Riley Whitesides led the attack with 12 kills and three other hitters went for seven or more kills in the match.
"We still have some newcomers just getting used to how difficult it is to beat a good SEC team on the road, I think we have a little bit better appreciation of that after yesterday when we just didn't come out and play the way we needed to," head coach Tom Mendoza said. "Yes, the result was better today but I was really excited to just see the way the team played, they're a lot of fun to watch when we're playing like that. I like our chances against anybody when we're competing and working together as a group like that."
SET ONE: The Gamecocks led wire-to-wire in the opening game, enjoying a 16-10 advantage in kills and out-hit Tennessee .364 to .135 on the way to a 25-16 score. Fresh off a career-high 16 kills Friday night, Mikayla Robinson picked right back up on the attack and put away five kills on eight swings. Freshman Riley Whitesides added five kills of her own and classmate Ellie Ruprich guided the defense with three block assists. South Carolina led by as much as nine points in the game, and a combo block from Ruprich and Kiune Fletcher sealed the final margin.
SET TWO: Both teams were swinging away in the second set, with Tennessee taking a 15-14 lead into the television timeout. In those 29 points scored before the break, 21 came off kills and the set would remain tight late. Tennessee was able to find daylight with a 4-1 run to break away from a 17-all tie, but the Gamecocks erased the late 22-19 deficit with a 6-1 run to pull off the 25-23 win and take a 2-0 lead. Whitesides spurred on the run, accounting for three kills in those pivotal six points, and Holly Eastridge sealed the win with her sixth kill of the afternoon. Overall there were nine ties and five lead changes in the set.
SET THREE: South Carolina found an unorthodox way to cap the night, pulling out a 25-23 final score in a set where Tennessee recorded more than double the amount of kills. Tennessee took an early lead, but three combo blocks for Ruprich keyed a 5-0 run that flipped the scoreboard for the Gamecocks. They would extend the lead out to five points, 20-15, but Tennessee's Lily Felts put her team on her back and rallied to score five of the next six points to tie the set. The Vols hurt themselves with three consecutive errors from there, though, and Mikayla Robinson clinched the win with her ninth kill of the match.
- Ruprich led the team with nine total blocks (one solo), her third time in six games that the freshman finished a match with nine or more total blocks. The nine blocks ties her with Belita Salters (vs. Auburn, 10/21/2007) and her output at Georgia on Oct. 19 for most total blocks in a three-set match in the rally-scoring era (since 2001).
- Over the two matches, the Gamecock serve reception defense was stout, allowing just three aces to the Vols over the seven sets played. That's compared to seven aces allowed against Auburn and 13 against Georgia.
- This is the team's first time winning a match in which it recorded fewer kills than its opponent since the 2019 NCAA tournament's opening round against Colorado State.
- South Carolina has won eight of the last 12 meetings in the series with Tennessee, four of those wins coming in Knoxville.
The fall schedule closes out at home in just a few short days, with South Carolina welcoming defending SEC champions Florida for a midweek series. The opener against the Gators will be Wednesday at 8 p.m. on the SEC Network. The Thursday rematch will be on the SEC Network+ with a 3 p.m. first serve.