Columbia, S.C. -
South Carolina volleyball (1-2) returns to action this weekend with their season home opener, the Carolina Classic. For the third and fourth time this season, the Gamecocks will play a top 25 team. USC will first play No. 25 Michigan State (3-0) on Friday night at 7 p.m. and will then host No. 17 North Carolina (3-0) Sunday at 1:30 p.m. Last year, USC opened its home season with the Carolina Classic and had a crowd of 1,023, the record for a Carolina volleyball home opener.
"I am really excited about the competition we have coming here this weekend. This is great for our team and our program. Our fans are going to have some exciting volleyball to watch this weekend," said head coach Kim Hudson Christopher. "It will only make us stronger to play this level of volleyball and it will help prepare us for conference play."
The Gamecocks are coming off of a tough weekend out west where they went 1-2, falling to No. 8 Northern Iowa and No. 1 Southern California. Carolina's lone win came against a solid Ball State team. Sophomore outside hitter Nicole Miller was named to the all-tournament team at the Holiday Inns of Greater Los Angeles Tournament where she led the Gameocks in kills with 31 and recorded 28 digs and six blocks.
Entering this weekend, Miller leads Carolina with 2.82 kills per game, followed by sophomore Lauren Ford, who is averaging 2.18 kills per game and 1.09 blocks per game. In the setter position, Katelyn Panzau is averaging 10.09 assists per game.
Although this marks the fourth meeting between the Spartans and the Gamecocks, this is the first meeting on Carolina's home court for MSU, which lead the series 3-0. The two teams last met last season when Carolina fell 3-1 at the Coca-Cola Classic Tournament at Michigan State. This year's Spartan team is lead by Kim Schram who was named tournament MVP last weekend at the Maryland Invitational. MSU won the tournament title as they defeated Villanova, Tennessee and Maryland. Schram is averaging 5.40 kills per game and has a .410 hitting percentage.
In what is becoming more of a rivalry, this will be the 17th meeting for UNC and the Gamecocks. The Tar Heels lead the series 11-5 and have won the last two meetings, including a win over USC last year at the NCAA Regional Tournament in Chapel Hill. This will be the first of two meetings between the two teams this season. The Gamecocks travel to Chapel Hill in late November. The Tar Heels are coming off of a 3-0 weekend as they defeated Oregon, James Madison and Temple at the GlaxoSmithKline UNC Volleyball Classic. Junior outside hitter Molly Pyles was named tournament MVP and she currently leads UNC in kills per game with 4.22.
The entire Carolina Classic schedule is as follows:
Friday, Sept. 5 - USC vs. Michigan State - 7 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 6 - UNC vs. Michigan State - 2 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 7 - USC vs. UNC - 1:30 p.m.
The South Carolina/Michigan State match can be heard live on internet broadcast at www.uscsports.com. Andy Fields will do play-by-play while former Gamecock standout Cally Plummer will provide color commentary.