CINCINNATI, OHIO - A historic night for South Carolina volleyball's defense spurred the team to a comeback win on the road at Cincinnati Friday. The Gamecocks (5-1) ran their win streak to five games, erasing a 2-0 set lead for the Bearcats (5-2) thanks to 21 total blocks. Junior Oby Anadi broke the modern scoring era record for individual blocks in a match, finishing the night with 15, and senior Riley Whitesides led the offense with 17 kills on a .333 hitting percentage.
1st SET: Two key runs for Cincinnati to start and end the set made all the difference as the home team opened with a 25-23 win. The Bearcats jumped out to a 6-2 lead to start the match, but were quickly answered by a 7-2 run for Carolina for its first lead of the game. The two sides played point-for-point for the mid-game, but Cincinnati made its second move to break out of a tight score in the 20s.
Leading 21-20, the Bearcats used a pair of blocks to score three unanswered and set up multiple set-point opportunities. Three blocks for Carolina threatened to extend the match, but Cincinnati was able to side out and end the game. Riley Whitesides led the offense with six kills on seven errorless swings.
2nd SET: The Gamecocks were efficient to start the second set, converting seven kills out of their first 12 swings to build an 11-5 lead. The offense would not keep its pace, though, recording eight more kills from there in a 27-25 loss to put Cincinnati ahead 2-0. Errors would be costly down the stretch, with nine attack and three serve errors helping the Bearcats claw back and close the game on a 9-3 run. Lauren McCutcheon and Campbell Paris combined for the team lead with four kills each, but the other four Gamecock attackers combined for just seven kills with eight errors.
3rd SET: The team leaned on senior Kiune Fletcher to come off the mat in the third. Trailing 9-5, South Carolina saw Fletcher account for five points in a 10-0 run to spark the team to a 15-9 lead. All told, Fletcher scored seven of the team's first 15 points (three on kills, four on blocks). Cincinnati fired back with a run of its own, though, scoring the next seven unanswered to go back ahead, 16-15.
The Gamecock block came up clutch again down the stretch, starting with a 6-1 run started by a pair of blocks from Ellie Ruprich that was capped off by back-to-back service aces from Whitesides and made it a 23-19 lead for Carolina. Cincinnati made one last push and tied the score at 23, but the eighth block of the set for the Gamecocks capped a 25-23 win to extend the match.
4th SET: South Carolina's defense stepped up again for another big set in the fourth to send the match to a fifth, totaling four more blocks with a game-high 21 digs in a 25-20 win. Cincinnati jumped ahead big with an 8-2 start to the game, but a big run behind the service line from libero Morgan Carter broke the set open. The junior led an 11-0 run that staked the Gamecocks to an 18-11 lead and the team closed out the win to even the match. The Bearcats had their worst offensive set of the night, hitting just .043 with six unforced attacking errors. South Carolina's middles, Oby Anadi and Ellie Ruprich, added some offense to their big nights blocking, with each chipping in three kills in the fourth.
5th SET: The Gamecocks would not slow their roll in the fifth, hitting .440 with a 12-4 advantage in kills to a 15-9 win and completed the comeback. Carter would again serve the team to a key run, breaking up a 5-5 tie with a 4-0 run to give Carolina a lead it would never give up. Anadi added three more kills in the fifth and freshman Campbell Paris went 3-for-3 with her attacks to share the team lead.
- Oby Anadi's 15 total blocks breaks Mikayla Robinson's single-game record of 14 for most in a match during the rally-scoring era (since 2001). The last Gamecock with more blocks in a match was Libby Ralston (16 vs. Jacksonville (9/6/1991)).
- Anadi's block total is the most by any player in the NCAA so far this season.
- Overall, South Carolina's 21 team blocks are the most since Oct. 8, 2004 (vs. Ole Miss).
- Cincinnati entered the weekend with a team hitting percentage of .297 through its first six matches but was held to .100.
- Friday night was the first time since Sept. 30, 2018 (Georgia) that the Gamecocks overcame a 2-0 set deficit to win a match in five sets on the road. August 27, 2021 (Washington St.) was the last time the Gamecocks came back from a 2-0 deficit at home.
- Riley Whitesides finished the night with a packed box score, riding her big first set to hit .333 with 17 kills. The senior also added 11 digs, three blocks and three service aces, giving her three double-doubles in the first six matches of the season.
- In the 13th meeting between the two teams, Friday night was the first win at Cincinnati since Oct. 12, 1985.
QUOTABLE: OBY ANADI
On the team's mentality after going down two sets
"I think we really honed in on our mindset. I think that's what it really was. Physically, we have it, I think mentally we weren't in the game ready for this first two sets, but we really changed our mindsets. We focused on each other, we believed in each other and we knew we would be able to do it. It was just about going out there and showing everybody that we believed in ourselves as well."
The rematch against the Bearcats is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Saturday, also scheduled to air on ESPN+.