STARKVILLE, MISS. – A historic performance from senior Kiune Fletcher set the tone in South Carolina’s straight-set sweep at Mississippi State on Wednesday night. Her 26 kills came one shy of a program record and is currently the best in the nation this season. It was also the first road sweep of the season for the Gamecocks, who improved to 10-13 (4-10 SEC) with the win over the Bulldogs (11-13, 4-10 SEC).
The performance was all the more special because of just how short-handed South Carolina was going into the match, missing three main contributors due to injury – senior outside hitter Riley Whitesides, sophomore setter Kimmie Thompson and freshman setter Sydney Floyd.
1st SET: The new-look, single-setter offense started the night looking like had weeks to prepare rather than hours, finishing with 18 kills on a .293 hitting percentage in a 25-21 win to start the match. Kiune Fletcher set the tone of her night from the very beginning, scoring four of the team’s first five points off kills. All told, the senior finished with eight total kills in the set as the team pulled away late.
The two sides battled for most of the mid-game, with eight ties from 12-12 up to 20-20 before the team got a key run from sophomore Alayna Johnson. The pin broke a 20-all tie with back-to-back kills and a block in a 4-0 run to finally find the space to close out the set. Setter Claire Wilson was outstanding as the lone quarterback for the offense, finishing with 15 assists, two digs, a block and two kills.
2nd SET: The Bulldogs jumped out to a healthy lead to start set two, but behind what would end up being 10 more kills from Fletcher, South Carolina climbed its way back in and turned a 10-6 deficit into a 16-13 lead. In that 10-3 run alone, Fletcher accounted for four more kills. Again, the last stretch of the set would be the toughest on both sides, with ties at 21, 22 and 23 before State got the first set point chance at 24-23. The Gamecocks fought that off, and another set point chance for the Bulldogs at 27-26. A dump kill for Wilson tied the score, then a kill for Lauren McCutcheon and service ace for Ellie Ruprich clinched a 30-28 win and 2-0 set lead.
3rd SET: The final set would also bleed into the bonus, with the Gamecocks again grinding out the win to clinch the sweep, 27-25. As she was all night, Fletcher was unstoppable in the third, converting 14 swings into eight more kills to push her to not just a new career high but a historic performance. She…