COLUMBIA, S.C. — The University of South Carolina volleyball team recorded 41 kills and hit .442, while holding Gardner-Webb to 21 smashes en route to a straight set sweep of the Runnin' Bulldogs to conclude the Gamecock Invitational Saturday evening.
"This was probably the best South Carolina team we have faced since I have been at Gardner-Webb," said head coach Leo Sayles. "Though the score does not show it, our players settled down and improved throughout the match. I am pleased with our overall effort this week, and am confident we are ready for the rigors of conference play."
South Carolina (12-0) won the match by scores of 25-10, 25-13 and 25-15, and put together an extremely efficient offensive performance with 41 kills on 77 swings to hit .442 for the match. The Gamecocks held Gardner-Webb (8-5) to 21 kills and 26 digs on the night.
Taylor Lillard (Victorville, Calif.) posted six kills and five digs to lead the way for Gardner-Webb, as the senior earned her first all-tournament honors of the season. Kaelyn Dyson (Holly Springs, N.C.) added five kills and a .308 clip on the attack, while Tinsley Fain (Boiling Springs, S.C.) dished out 10 assists. Emma Milstead (Knoxville, Tenn.) finished the night with seven digs.
Koko Atoa-Williams led the way for South Carolina with eight kills on 13 swings, while Mikayla Shields added six smashes. Joely Cabrera tallied nine digs, as Aubrey Ezell recorded match-highs of 26 assists and four service aces.
The Gamecocks got off to a torrid start in the first set, scoring 11 of the match's first 12 points to take an 11-1 lead on a smash from Jacqy Angermiller. South Carolina would push the advantage to 22-6 before a Shields kill capped the set, 25-10, to give the Gamecocks a 1-0 lead in the match.
Gardner-Webb fought back in the second frame with a 7-5 spurt to answer a 9-2 set-opening run by the Gamecocks, and close the gap to 14-9 on an ace from Dyson. South Carolina quickly answered with a 4-0 spurt to kickstart an 11-4 run that finished off the set, and put the Gamecocks up 2-0 in the match.
The Runnin' Bulldogs continued to fight throughout the third set as well, and took an early 6-5 lead when Fain alertly dumped it over the net and found a hole in the defense for a kill. After Dyson knotted the score at 7-7 with a kill, South Carolina countered with a 15-4 surge to open a 22-11 advantage following a smash from Alicia Starr. Gardner-Webb responded with four straight to trim the margin to 22-15 on a Lillard kill before a trio of tallies by the Gamecocks sealed the win for South Carolina.
Gardner-Webb returns to the pitch on Tuesday when the Runnin' Bulldogs travel to Rock Hill, South Carolina to open their Big South Conference schedule against Winthrop at 7:00 pm.