USC Aiken Cages Bobcats In Five-Set Thriller To Reach Sweet 16

Photo by Artie Walker
Photo by Artie Walker

WINGATE, N.C. – The University of South Carolina Aiken volleyball team posted a come-from-behind 3-2 win over Georgia College to reach the NCAA Southeast Region Championship for the second time in three years.

The Pacers are now 23-4 on the season while the Bobcats, who upset No. 3 Augusta, end the year at 17-13.

For the match, Kayla Duggan led the way with a career-high 20 kills while hitting .320. Alie Smith had a double-double with 17 kills and 12 digs. Christine Carroll posted 13 kills and six blocks while Brittani Vialdores totaled 12 kills, hit .455 and had five blocks.

Ali Kirk distributed a career-high 38 assists to go along with four blocks while Alli Bell racked up a double-double with 23 assists and 10 digs.

Rebecca Martinez became the first student-athlete in PBC history to record 22 20-dig matches after going for a team-high 22. Vannah Strozier added 16 digs.

Kelsey Spurlin came off the bench after the first set and had four kills to go along with three blocks.

Trailing 9-5 in the opening set, Vialdores slammed home a pass from Bell, giving USC Aiken possession at the service line. Duggan rolled a shot past two defenders for a point prior to Smith serving up an ace, pulling the Pacers within one at 9-8. On the ensuing play, Bell dove for a ball and bumped it over the net prior to hitting the ground. The ball hit inside the line, making it 9-9. Duggan stuffed a shot before Smith served up an ace as the libero looked at it hit beside her foot for an 11-9 advantage.

GC battled back, but USC Aiken held a 20-19 edge after a kill from Vialdores. The Bobcats jumped ahead 23-21 before a kill from Carroll pulled head coach Glenn Cox's team within one. A block from Smith knotted the score at 23-23, but the designated visitors managed to score the final two points for the close first-set win.

Duggan started off the second set with a pair of kills. Strozier served up an ace. Back-to-back attack errors pushed the margin to 5-0 in USC Aiken's favor. A block from Kelsey Spurlin and Vialdores made it 13-3. The Bobcats pulled within five on multiple occasions, but Duggan and Vialdores combined for a block to make it 23-17. Duggan and Carroll finished off the set with back-to-back kills in the 25-19 victory.

The Bobcats managed to pull out a 31-29 in the third frame for a 2-1 advantage.  

USC Aiken evened the contest by winning the fourth set 25-19. The Pacers jumped out to a 7-3 edge after back-to-back miscues by the visitors. Carroll's kill off a pass from Kirk made it 15-8, but the Bobcats pulled within four at 21-17. Cox's squad maintained a wide margin and registered the winning point off a service error, which sent the match to the fifth frame.

Cox's team fell behind 6-3 in the fifth set, but Smith hammered home a pass. After a miscue by the visitors, the Bobcats recorded a kill to make it 7-5. Smith had a kill and Vialdores blocked an attempt, making it 7-7.

Georgia College led 8-7, but Vialdores recorded a kill. After back-to-back miscues by the Bobcats, time-out was called. Up 10-9, Duggan tallied a kill before Carroll and Spurlin blocked a shot to make it 12-9. After the teams traded points, a mistake by the Bobcats made it 14-10. Two plays later, Duggan finished the match with a thunderous kill and sending USC Aiken to the Sweet 16 for the second time in three years.

The Pacers return to action tomorrow in the region championship against either Wingate or Anderson at 7 p.m. Live stats and video will be available at Peachbelt.com.