ATLANTA, GA. - South Carolina (14-15) bowed out of the NCAA tournament Friday evening, losing in three sets to No. 17 Western Kentucky (28-1). The Gamecocks were led by Riley Whitesides' nine kills, but were unable to slow down the nation's most efficient offense.
SET ONE: The set started with six ties in the first 20 total blocks, but four WKU blocks in a span of six points expanded its lead to 16-10 and forced a Carolina timeout. McKenzie Moorman killed a pair of out-of-system balls to break the run, but the six-point advantage would prove to be more than enough for the Hilltoppers to carry to a 25-20 win. The blocks were the deciding factor, as the Gamecocks hit .324 with no unblocked errors but WKU countered with a .536 hitting percentage and just two total errors. Three Gamecocks finished with four kills in the set, Kyla Manning and Riley Whitesides joined Moorman at the top. Freshman Oby Anadi converted both of her attacks into kills and also chipped in on both of the team's blocks in the game.
SET TWO: South Carolina's offense took a step back in the second set, totaling just seven kills in a 25-13 loss to go down 2-0 in the match. Western Kentucky's defensive strong point moved from its blockers to its passers, totaling 20 digs in the set while the Gamecocks committed five unforced attack errors.
SET THREE: The Gamecocks started the set strong, but committed three early unforced errors to push a WKU lead from 7-6 to 13-7. The high error rate on the attack spoiled perhaps the defense's best set of the match, Kiune Fletcher and Ellie Ruprich teamed up with a pair of blocks that got the team back within two, 16-14, but the Hilltoppers score eight of the next 11 points to close out the match in three.
The Gamecocks are set to bring back seven individuals who played in 25 or more matches this season, including their leading blocker (Ellie Ruprich), digs leader Morgan Carter and two of their top three leaders in kills (Whitesides and McCutcheon). In the match, eight of the 11 Gamecocks who played were either freshmen or sophomores. Print Friendly Version