KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee volleyball team dropped a four-set decision (18-25, 25-17, 20-25, 23-25) against South Carolina on Sunday in UT's SEC opener at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Freshman Jamie Lea led the Lady Vols (8-7, 0-1 SEC) with 13 kills, while senior Whitney Heeres added 12 kills and five blocks assists. Her five block assists ties her career high which she tallied against UT Martin on Sept. 7. Sophomore setter Lexi Dempsey dished out 42 assists and scooped up seven digs while freshman Ashley Mariani finished with 10 kills, three digs, and one block assist. Mariani has now recorded 10 or more kills in 12 of UT's 15 games this season.
Tennessee began the match with freshman Raina Hembry recording back-to-back kills. Mariani chimed in with a kill of her own to give UT an early 3-2 lead. The two squads went back and forth, playing out six ties before the Gamecocks took a 19-11 jump. The Orange & White tried to make a late run with Dempsey serving four straight points for the Lady Vols to bring the score to 18-22. South Carolina rattled off the next three points to take game one 18-25. Hembry totaled five kills in the first set, while Lea added four.
Kicking off the second set with a kill by Lea, the Lady Vols and Gamecocks were tied on five occasions during the beginning of the second game. Tennessee never gave up the lead and came out on top, 25-17. Mariani led the squad with five skills, while Lea and junior Shealyn Kolosky added three apiece.
In the third set, South Carolina built a 17-11 lead. A late run with Hembry serving pulled the Lady Vols within 20-24, but a kill by South Carolina's Jacqy Angermiller ended the set, 25-20.
UT jumped to a 10-7 lead to start the fourth stanza, before the Gamecocks went on a 3-0 run to tie it up 10-10. UT responded with a 5-0 run with junior Nikki Brice serving and three errors from South Carolina to go up 15-10. The Lady Vols battled back to go up 17-13, but the Gamecocks responded with an 8-0 run to take a 21-17 advantage. South Carolina would hold on to the lead and take the fourth set and match, 25-23.
The Gamecocks (9-5, 1-1 SEC) hit .189 for the match and tallied 13 blocks. Juliette Thevenin led South Carolina with 23 kills and 16 digs, while Dessaa Legros added 12 kills.
The Big Orange hits the road to continue league play against Georgia on Friday, Oct. 4, and Kentucky on Sunday, Oct. 6.