In the grand scheme of things, South Carolina had nothing to gain in the final match of the season against Arkansas. Standing at just 16-14 on the year, win or lose the season was going to end Friday afternoon. Arkansas, on the other hand, had everything to gain. With a 22-8 record and sitting on the fringe of making the NCAA Tournament, a win would likely earn them a berth while a loss would likely end their season.
For the Carolina players they had everything to play for as they said farewell to two great senior leaders, Taylor Bruns and Christina Glover. Carolina played like the team head coach Scott Swanson knew they could play like all season, refusing to be denied a win in the final game as they upset the Razorbacks 3-2 at the Volleyball Competition Facility. South Carolina finishes the season at 17-14, just the second time they have finished with a winning record in 10 years, while Arkansas finishes the year 22-9 and will await their fate Sunday afternoon when the field is announced.
Early on, South Carolina matched Arkansas' power and experience with a high amount of energy. The two teams would go back and forth for most of the first set with neither team leading by more than two points. Arkansas would take advantage of some hitting mistakes by Carolina to run off six straight points to lead 18-12. Carolina would battle right back with five of their own to cut the lead to 18-17. The Gamecocks would even lead late in the set, 22-21. Arkansas would lead 24-23 but would have their first set winner denied on an attack error by Roslandy Acosta. Arkasns would manage to score the next two points to take the hard-fought first set 26-24.
In the second set Carolina would assert themselves early, jumping out to a 5-2 lead and would hold that lead until Arkansas was able to tie the set up at 11-11. For most of the second half of the season Carolina would have struggled to grab the momentum back, but that would not be the case in the second set. The Gamecocks would reel off four straight to lead 19-15 and Arkansas would not get closer than two points the remainder of the set. With a 19-17 lead Carolina would take six of the final seven points for a commanding 25-18 win to tie the match up 1-1.
The one thing Carolina did not want to see in the third set is for Arkansas to jump out to an early lead. That's exactly what happened as Arkansas used a couple of lucky bounces to take the first three points of the set. As had been the case the first two sets, Carolina had an answer, taking a 7-6 lead. After Arkansas jumped up to a 12-9 led, Carolina began to slowly work their way back in the match and would score four of five points to lead 24-20. Carolina could not put the Razorbacks away as Arkansas scored four straight to tie it at 24-24. Jasmine Norton and Thevenin would go back and forth on kills, combining to score five straight points, but a Bethanie Thomas and Cara Howley kills would win the set for the Gamecocks, 28-26 to take a 2-1 lead.
Much like the first three sets, the fourth set would be another back and forth with neither team taking more than a one point lead in the first 21 points of the set. Down 12-10 Arkansas would take control of the set, scoring seven of the next eight points to lead 17-13. Carolina would not be able to get back into it as Arkansas took the set 25-19 to force a deciding fifth set.
With the deciding set going to only 15 instead of 25, getting off to a great start is always important. Carolina would take control early, taking the first five points of the set on a Bethanie Thomas ace, a pair of Thevenin kills and a pair of Arkansas errors. Arkansas would try their best to get back in the set, twice trimming the lead to three points. Each time Carolina would score the next two points to stretch the lead back out to five. They would hold a 14-8 lead, but Arkansas would fight back to score two consecutive points. Feeling a replay from the third set, Swanson would call a timeout to calm his team down. They would respond as Bruns would end her career on an assist as Bethanie Thomas got a kill to end the match.
Carolina finishes the season with two wins it its final three matches to gain momentum in the offseason and the remaining players will look to continue what Bruns and Glover has helped start in 2013.
Gamecocks send seniors off with win
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