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Sophomore Phoebe Awoleye (8) and Senior Kayla Rivera (10) jump for a block. On Friday, Aug. 27, 2021 at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens Georgia, the University of Georgia volleyball team defeated Morehead State in three straight sets. (Photo: Conor Dillon; dillon.conor11@gmail.com)

The Georgia volleyball team lost in five sets to South Carolina: 26-24, 17-25, 22-25, 25-17, 7-15 at the Carolina Volleyball Center in Columbia, South Carolina Wednesday evening. It was the first SEC game of the season for both teams.

In the second half of a back-and-forth first set, the Bulldogs and Gamecocks found themselves tied at 17-17. South Carolina took a two-point lead, 19-17, prompting a Georgia timeout. The break was just what the Bulldogs needed, as they won three-straight points to go ahead 20-19. However, the Gamecocks won four straight themselves to stake a 23-20 advantage.

Georgia battled back with another three-point run to tie the score 23-23. The Gamecocks won the next rally to force set point, but the Bulldogs won the next two points on kills by juniors Kacie Evans and Amber Stivrins to force their own set point. An attack error by South Carolina provided the decisive blow in the first set, with Georgia winning 26-24. The frame featured 14 ties and six lead changes.

In the second set South Carolina took an early lead and never looked back, taking down Georgia 25-17 and tying the match at 1-1.

After losing the previous set, the Bulldogs came out strong in the third. Nevertheless, the Gamecocks took a 19-15 advantage in the second half. Although Georgia fought hard, coming within one point of South Carolina at 21-20, they were unable to complete the comeback and lost 25-22. Despite dropping the set, Georgia hit .367 and recorded six blocks.

The Bulldogs have struggled this season to regroup after falling behind in sets. However, they managed to win nine of the next 11 points to take a 18-12 in the fourth set and they never looked back, winnings the set 25-17.

After forcing a fifth and final set, Georgia lost 15-7 to drop its first conference match of the season.

Once again, junior Kacie Evans led Georgia's effort with 14 kills. She also recorded 13 digs, her fourth double-double this year. Senior Sage Naves posted a season-high 11 kills herself, and fellow senior Kayla Rivera matched that total. Sophomore libero Mallory Downing had 11 digs, while fellow sophomore Phoebe Awoleye tallied eight blocks.

Georgia will return to Athens and host No. 17 Florida on Sept. 29 with first serve schedules for 7 p.m.

"We learned a lot tonight," said head coach Tom Black. "Both things we liked, and things we have to continue to improve. The key is to grow our ability to compete for longer periods of time. We are certainly looking forward to being home next Wednesday to host Florida."