Arkansas Wins Thriller Against Gamecocks

FAYETTEVILLE -- The results weren't pretty for Arkansas' volleyball team Sunday, but they sure were sweet.

Facing a two games to one deficit and a seven-point hole in game 4, the Lady Razorbacks appeared to be headed for their first 0-2 start in Southeastern Conference play since the 2000 season. Then things started clicking and Arkansas found a way to get the job done against South Carolina, rallying for a 3-2 win, 25-30, 30-27, 22-30, 31-29, 20-18 on Sunday in front of a crowd of 770 in Barnhill Arena.

"Certainly was good to get the victory," said Arkansas coach Chris Poole. "Particularly because we did struggle so much in the match. We struggled Friday night (against Tennessee) and we continued to struggle in this match.

"So we really haven't figured it out yet because our offense was clicking so well early. But the best I can figure is when you play a tough schedule like we have, you don't get a break."

Arkansas (8-5, 1-1) struggled so much early in the match, it was lucky to avoid a sweep at the hands of the Gamecocks (7-5, 0-2). After falling behind 0-1 with a 30-25 loss in the first game, the Lady'Backs needed a late rally -- and some help from South Carolina -- to take game 2, 30-27.

The Gamecocks again took control in the third game, winning 30-22, and appeared to be on their way to a victory after building a 15-8 lead in the fourth. But suddenly Arkansas turned unforced errors and low hitting percentages into great kills, nice blocks and near-perfect play.

The result was a big comeback for Arkansas, who forced a fifth game with a 31-29 win in the fourth after scoring the final four points of the game.

"I think it was really, really good when we turned it on," said Arkansas' Kele Brewer. "It was time and we needed to turn it around."

After sending the match to a fifth and deciding game, Brewer stepped up big for Arkansas, delivering four kills in the final set.

But the Lady'Backs wouldn't get the win without some more work.

Despite building 13-9 and 14-11 leads in the fifth game, South Carolina put together its own comeback time and time again down the stretch, forcing Arkansas to go to eight match points before finally clinching the win, 20-18, when Shonda Cole's attempt missed long.

"We're at a point right now where we need to be in these situations to learn how to do better," said Gamecocks first-year coach Nancy Somera. "And we will.

"But yeah, it hurts."

Arkansas hits the road for two games this week, visiting Auburn Friday and Alabama Sunday. The Gamecocks host Mississippi State on Friday.

"To start 0-2 in conference would have been extremely difficult," Poole said. "Because I didn't expect to lose any at home and we were already 0-1."

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