Wildcats Drop Heartbreaker in South Carolina, 3-2
Oct. 8, 2003
COLUMBIA, S.C. - The University of Kentucky volleyball team dropped a thriller in Columbia, S.C., on Wednesday, Oct. 8, to South Carolina, 3-2. The match saw Kentucky earn a game win over the Gamecocks for the first time since 2001, but a .257 hitting performance by USC would be enough to overpower the Wildcats.
Kentucky (10-7, 2-3 Southeastern Conference) was led by freshman Melissa Popp with 18 kills and 13 digs for her seventh double-double of the year. Liz McCaslin was solid as well with 13 kills and 19 digs, while Sissy Canfield tallied 14 putdowns and three blocks. Jenni Casper had 18 digs on the night, while Julie Davis continued to dominate the front line with seven blocks.
The Cats got off on the right foot with a quick kill by Popp in the opening game. After three early ties, South Carolina used a 5-1 run for the 8-4 lead. Kentucky remained patient evened the score at 12 before taking a two-point lead at 14-12. The Gamecocks took two quick points to tie the score again, starting a serious of three deadlocks. USC pulled away down the stretch and fought off several Wildcat comeback attempts to win the first game, 30-23. Sissy Canfield was a perfect 4-for-4 in hitting in the first game.
After giving up the first point in the second game, Kentucky pulled together and took a 6-3 lead. South Carolina cut the advantage to one at 7-6, but the Cats wouldn't be stopped. UK extended the lead to four at 13-9 on a Liz McCaslin kill, forcing a USC timeout.
The break proved important for Carolina, who came back to take the next three points. The Cats regained a three-point lead at 15-12 on a huge solo block by Marcum. UK continued to control the pace, stretching the lead to as many as five with huge plays by Davis and Marcum, but a questionable call at 20-15 would break the concentration as the Gamecocks took the next four points, forcing a UK timeout.
Despite several Gamecock runs, the Cats maintained their distance and closed out the game with a 30-26 win on a Popp putdown. It marked UK's first game victory over USC since Oct. 5, 2001. Popp had four kills in the game, while Davis added three on perfect hitting.
With Popp continuing to dominate, Kentucky took a 9-4 lead to open the third game. After a South Carolina trip to the bench, the Gamecocks fought back, trimming the score to 14-12. Serving errors and miscues by USC, would allow UK to build back, to a five-point edge at 20-15.
A service ace by McCaslin would put the score at 24-21, forcing another Gamecock timeout. The home team returned to take the next two points, cutting the lead to one at 24-23 and causing a UK break. The Cats returned to take points on a Danielle Wallace kill and a USC net violation but let the next two slip away. A Davis hitting error would tie the game at 26 and again at 27, but three smart Gamecock plays would put them on game point at 29-27.
The Cats got back in the game and tied the score at 29 on a lucky Wallace putdown. The game saw another deadlock at 30 before a strong kill by USC's Lynae Vander Hull would put USC up. A repeat of the plays put Carolina up 32-31, but a McCaslin kill evened things again. South Carolina went on to win the match from there, 34-32.
Kentucky burst out to a 12-4 lead early in the fourth game, forcing the Gamecocks to talk it over. The Wildcats continued to dominate for much of the game until errors allowed USC back in the hunt at 24-20. Hitting errors by Kentucky would allow Carolina to tie the game at 27 before taking the lead at 28-27. An error by UK would put the Gamecocks on match point but a Canfield kill kept the game alive. Another slam by Canfield tied it at 29 before a Popp ace put UK on game point at 30-29. UK won the game on a two-hits call on USC for the 31-29 win.
The Wildcats fell behind 3-0 early in the fifth, but battled back with back-to-back blocks to cut the lead to one. Despite falling behind 8-5, Kentucky remained calm and came within one several times late, including at 13-12 on a Popp kill down the middle. A Vander Hull shot to the middle back put the Gamecocks on match point at 14-12, but a Canfield crossover kept UK alive. Vander Hull had one more in her, however, and gave USC the victory with a 15-13 final game score.
Kentucky returns to action on Sunday, Oct. 12 against Tennessee in Knoxville. The match gets underway at 2 p.m. ET.