July 29, 2014
By Brad Muller | More Features
South Carolina volleyball coach Scott Swanson added a pair of coaches to his staff who intend to use their collegiate, international and Team USA experience to help build the program into a contender. Joining the staff are former Gamecock All-American outside hitter Shonda Cole as a volunteer assistant and former Ohio State All-Big Ten middle blocker Kristen Dozier as a graduate assistant.
"Shonda is arguably the best player to ever come through the program," Swanson said. "She was an extraordinary player and an unbelievable personality. She's somebody who will help us recruit more student-athletes like her to South Carolina.
"Kristen is another unbelievable role model for our student-athletes. She's going to help us with a lot of our day-to-day operations, including game day preparation."
Swanson added that their international experience allows them to see the game at a different level.
"The Big 10 and the SEC are very high levels to play volleyball," Swanson said. "But you have to be very special to make the national team or make a professional team in a good league overseas. It's a different experience than you would get as a collegiate player."
Swanson had already bolstered his staff late in the spring with the addition of Dottie Porch as an assistant coach. Now in his fourth year at the helm with the Gamecocks, Swanson and his staff also have a talented recruiting class that received the highest honorable mention ranking from Prepvolleyball.com.
"We're going to be young this year," Swanson said. "We still only have two seniors, but I feel like the 2012 and 2013 classes are really maturing, and the 2014 class was an elite one. So I really feel like we have the pieces in place to be competitive in the SEC and to have a better shot at having a winning season and getting to the postseason."
With eight teams from the Southeastern Conference making the NCAA Tournament last year, the experiences of Cole and Dozier should be an asset to the development of the program.
Cole wore the garnet and black from 2003-2006 and was South Carolina's first All-America selection in volleyball while also earning All-SEC honors three times in her career. After spending the last seven years playing professionally overseas, Cole jumped at the chance to get into coaching at the place where it all began.
"I think I'll be able to relate to the girls on a different level because I have experienced life as a player here," Cole said. "I'll be able to share my experiences here and perhaps help them with some of the struggles they may be having."
During the offseason, she also spent four years coaching at Greenville High School. Cole's professional career took her to Spain, Puerto Rico and France where she was part of two league championship teams and earned an MVP title in 2013. During her playing career with the Gamecocks, Cole was part of the United States' national team for the summers of 2005 and 2006. She competed in the 2005 World Grand Prix and the Pan American Games.
"I was still in college and playing with some of the greatest volleyball players that the U.S. had to offer at the time," Cole said. "What an incredible experience that was. All of those experiences definitely made me a better player. The experience of playing overseas just opens up your eyes to a whole different level and you continue to learn the game."
She finished her career ranked second in school history in kills, first in kills per set, and second in total points.
"I'm excited about being back in Columbia and working with the great staff we have at South Carolina," Cole said. "I want to help build a championship program."
Kristen Dozier owns a wealth of experience, not only from her collegiate days at Ohio State, where she earned Honorable Mention All-Big 10 honors as a senior in 2009, but also internationally. Dozier was a member of USA's national team in 2013, competing when visiting teams traveled to America for matches. She also played professionally in Spain, Israel, Puerto Rico, Germany, and Poland.
"It was really a dream come true to be a part of the national team," Dozier said. "It was a great experience to be able to work with the best players and the best coaches. As for playing overseas, every country offers a different level of competitiveness, organization, compensation and culture."
Dozier was already familiar with the South Carolina program because her sister, Darian, is a junior middle blocker for the Gamecocks. A two-time Academic All-Big 10 selection and Ohio State Scholar Athlete, she also had a desire to continue her education and was well aware of the University's business program and its top ranking for master's work in International Business.
"That's something I've always wanted to get into, and I've always wanted to get my MBA," Dozier said. "I knew South Carolina was a great athletics department overall, and it also had something I wanted to achieve from an academic standpoint."
Ohio State was a top 25 team throughout most of her collegiate career, and she competed in the NCAA tournament several times during her time with the Buckeyes.
"I think I know what it takes to win and succeed at the best levels," Dozier said. "I also know a lot about the mentality of a student-athlete and what it takes to persevere through your career. I'm big on goal setting, seeing what you want to do long-term and then setting smaller goals to help you get there."
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