The 2009 team had some early season successes, capturing the tournament title at the Big Orange Bash and in the Gamecock Invitational. Sarah Cline set the program's career digs record during the year while claiming the Southeastern Conference Scholar-Athlete of the Year award. She also became the third Gamecock to earn ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America accolades, making the second team. Ivana Kujundzic made her way onto three career top-10 lists: kills, kills per set and attacks. The fourth season saw the Gamecocks drop to 7-23 overall before Somera decided to step away from the program.
The 2008 Gamecocks made amazing strides under Somera's direction, finishing with the program's first 20-win season since 2002 with a 21-9 overall record. The squad led the SEC in a plethora of categories, including hitting percentage (.259), assists per set (12.66) and kills per set (13.71). South Carolina also ranked second in the league with 15.17 digs per set. The team also won 12 conference games for the first time in six season, going 12-8 during the double round-robin slate. That included eight home wins, with two coming in sweeps over NCAA Tournament teams Tennessee and LSU. The Gamecocks also downed rival and 2008 NCAA tourney participant Clemson in a five-set thriller at the Volleyball Competition Facility. The list of significant triumphs also includes a neutral-site win over Dayton, another NCAA Tournament participant.
Two Gamecocks ranked in the top 10 in the league in hitting percentage, kills per set and aces per set in 2008, with Belita Salters and Ivana Kujundzic both earning spots in two categories. Setter Bridget Denson-Dorman led the league in assists per set with 10.57, just the second time a setter for Carolina topped 10.3 assists since 2002. Denson-Dorman, Kujundzic and Salters all earned American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) All-South Region honorable mention accolades, the first time three Gamecocks picked up regional honors in the same year since 2002. Salters also became the ninth South Carolina volleyball player to pick up first-team All-SEC honors after leading the conference in hitting percentage with a .389 mark, the second-highest percentage in Carolina history during the rally-scoring era. Libero Sarah Cline received first-team ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District III accolades after ranking sixth in the SEC with 3.84 digs per set.
In 2007, Somera's squad went 14-15 overall but turned things around toward the latter part of the season. The squad captured five wins in their final nine SEC contests, including wins over NCAA Tournament squads LSU and Alabama. One of the standouts for Somera was SEC All-Freshman Team middle blocker Megan Laughlin, who ranked in the top 10 in the conference in aces while ranking second on the team in blocks and third in kills.
Somera was named associate head coach for Gamecock volleyball in February 2005 after six seasons as an assistant and associate head coach at Oregon State. During his six years on staff, the team had at least one win over each SEC while posting an 84-94 overall record. Included in the SEC victories was a 3-1 win over Florida in 2006, which was the program's first against the Gators since 1994. Florida, ranked sixth at the time, is the highest-ranked team South Carolina has defeated in its history, and it marked just the fifth regular-season SEC defeat for the Gators since 1991.
While at Oregon State, Somera coached the middle blockers for four seasons and spent two with the setters. Under his tutelage, one of his setters earned honorable mention All-Pacific 10 honors and two of his middle blockers finished the season ranked among the top 10 blockers in the Pac-10 Conference. Two other Beavers earned honorable mention and one was named first-team All-Pac-10, while two student-athletes earned spots on the Pac-10 All-Freshman Team from 1999 to 2004. Additionally, seven Beavers received academic praise from CoSIDA and 16 were awarded academic laurels from the Pacific-10 Conference while Somera served as a coach.
The Beavers were 77-98 (.440) overall during Somera's time in Corvallis, and he helped lead Oregon State to the NCAA Tournament in 2001 with a 17-12 record and fifth-place finish in the Pac-10. It was the first NCAA appearance for OSU since joining the Pac-10 in 1987 and only its second in school history after first making the field in 1983. Oregon State finished at .500 or better in one of the toughest volleyball conferences in the country in three of Somera's six seasons on staff. Academically, Oregon State's volleyball program led the athletic department in team GPA for 9-of-15 terms.
Somera's collegiate coaching experience began at Southern California in 1993 as a volunteer coach. He was then promoted to second assistant in 1994 and took the lead in the training and development of the program's middle blockers. While at Southern California, he cultivated three All-Americans at the middle blocker position.
In 1996, Somera left collegiate coaching to pursue a career in sales, but he continued to coach club volleyball. When his wife became the head coach at Oregon State in 1999, Somera returned to collegiate coaching.
Somera hails from LaCrescenta, Calif., and earned his bachelor's degree in political science from Southern California in 1995. Ben and Nancy have two children: son, Sam, and daughter, Maile.
The Somera Timeline
- 2007-2010 - Head coach, South Carolina
- 2005-2006 - Associate head coach, South Carolina
- 1999-2004 - Assistant coach, Oregon State
- 1994-1997 - Head coach, Santa Monica Beach Club
- 1994-1995 - Assistant coach, Southern California
- 1993 - Volunteer assistant, Southern California
- 1995, B.A., Political science, Southern California
Somera's Head Coaching Record
Year Record SEC Record 2007 14-15 7-13 2008 21-9 12-8 2009 14-16 5-15 2010 7-23 4-16 Career 56-63 28-52Ben Somera