COLUMBIA, S.C. - For its third match in a row, South Carolina (8-6, 2-2 SEC) found itself going the distance with a five-set match against Missouri (7-6, 0-3 SEC) on Saturday. The Gamecocks rebounded with a dominant final set to overcome a 2-1 deficit and get the win. Four different members of the team posted double-doubles, Jenna Hampton led the defense with 29 digs and Riley Whitesides put away seven of her team-high 15 kills in the final two sets.
The Gamecocks jumped out to a 1-0 lead thanks to a strong first set, winning 25-18 behind four blocks and an offense that hit .306 and put away 14 kills. Tied at 6-all early, a 6-0 run behind the service line with Whitesides broke the game open and Missouri would get no closer than three points the rest of the set. Whitesides did a little bit of everything, recording a kill, two service aces, two blocks and four digs. Three different Gamecocks would record four kills in the set - McKenzie Moorman, Lauren McCutcheon and Ellie Ruprich.
Missouri answered in the second, separating itself mid-way through for a 25-20 win. Holding an 11-10 lead, South Carolina saw their opponents reel off nine of the next 12 points for a lead the Gamecocks could not find away to answer. Neither side found much success on offense, Missouri only held a slight advantage with a .191 hitting percentage compared to .163 for South Carolina. The two defenses combined for 45 digs and six blocks, the Gamecocks were led by six digs apiece from Hampton and Dalaney Hans.
The third set would feature 14 ties and seven lead changes, almost all of them coming early. Missouri again used a mid-game run to get the advantage, breaking away for a 25-22 win to push ahead 2-1 in sets. Neither team held more than a two-point advantage until the Tiger run; with the Gamecocks up 17-16, Missouri scored five unanswered points and ran out to a 23-18 lead and were able to hold off a late push for the set win.
The defense emerged as the key again for South Carolina in the must-win fourth set. The Gamecocks limited Missouri to just nine kills and a .054 hitting percentage to force a fifth set with a 25-19 victory. There was not as much back-and-forth between the teams, rather trading off small runs and chunks of points at a time. South Carolina was able to break up an early push from Mizzou with a 7-0 run keyed by the service of Camilla Covas behind the line that turned a 9-6 lead for the Tigers into a Gamecock advantage. South Carolina's offense was varied, five different hitters posted two or more kills in the set while the defense turned in four more blocks and 17 digs with seven more from Hampton.
Covas' serve again proved vital in the final game to 15 points. With the game tied 5-5, the senior ran off seven unanswered points to dishearten the Tigers and put the game well out of reach. Whitesides again showed her abilities in the clutch, accounting for three kills during that game-breaking run and also teaming with Ruprich for a block. As a team, South Carolina hit .412 with just one attacking error and wrapped up the win at 15-9 with Whitesides' fourth kill of the set.
South Carolina is on a four-game win streak with Missouri, the longest win streak for either side in the all-time series. The Gamecocks were boosted by four individuals who had a double-double in the match: Riley Whitesides (15 kills, 11 digs), Dalaney Hans (28 assists, 12 digs), Claire Wilson (20 assists, 10 digs) and Jenna Hampton (29 digs, 10 assists) - who tallied her first career double-double thanks to a new personal best for assists. It's just the second time in the last decade that the team had four double-doubles in a single match. Along with her double-double, Whitesides tied her career high of three service aces and had a hand in four blocks. The team's 78 digs are 10 more than it's had in any other match so far this season; Hampton's 29 is the second-highest total of her career. Ellie Ruprich was a threat early and often on offense, her 11 kills was one off her career high and it was the first time since that career high of 12 vs. Mississippi State on Feb. 5, 2021 - a span of 51 matches - that she reached double figures for kills. With 15 more blocks Saturday afternoon, the Gamecocks have recorded at least 15 block in each of the last three matches. Oby Anadi led the team with eight total blocks (one solo).
Sunday's rematch will be a national broadcast on the SEC Network, with first serve scheduled for 4 p.m.