Sept. 27, 2017
SOUTH CAROLINA VS. LSU, TENNESSEE
COLUMBIA, S.C. - The South Carolina volleyball team returns home Friday and Sunday for two crucial conference matchups. The Gamecocks welcome in LSU (10-3, 1-1 SEC) Friday night, and host Tennessee (8-3, 1-1) Sunday afternoon. Both matches this weekend will air nationally on the SEC Network, with Courtney Lyle and Jenny Hazelwood on the call.
Carolina won its conference opener last Friday at Mississippi State, moving its record to 8-5 for the season.
It will be a special weekend for the program. On Friday night, the team will have a moment of silence and celebrate the life of former Gamecock Dr. Amy Collinsworth, ’93, who passed away at the end of July from brain cancer. Fans who wear grey, the color traditionally used to promote brain cancer awareness, will receive $1 admission to the match.
On Sunday, the team kicks off October with its Dig Pink match with the Volunteers at 1 p.m. Dig Pink runs nationwide throughout the month, raising funds and awareness for breast cancer research. Fans wearing pink can attend the match for just $1.
LSU has followed a disappointing 2016 season with a tremendous start to 2017. The Tigers come into the weekend at 10-3 overall 1-1 in the SEC, already surpassing their win total from last year. Along the way, the team has strong wins over High Point, UConn, Houston and a recent 3-0 win over perennial SEC power Texas A&M. Of the three losses, two came on the road to North Carolina and Baylor. 13 letter winners and five starters return from 2016, and the addition of freshman middle Taylor Bannister (3.09 kills per set) has added even more depth to the offense. Outside hitter Gina Tillis remains one of the finest six-rotation starters in the SEC, and Toni Rodriguez ranks third in kills. On defense, sophomore Jacqui Armer stand third overall in the conference at 1.41 blocks per set, and four different Tigers average two or more digs per set.
The Volunteers were 1-1 in the first weekend of the conference season, and will play at No. 1 Florida Friday before coming to Carolina for a Sunday afternoon match. Tennessee is 8-3 for the year, winning four of the last five. One of the most physical teams in the country, UT ranks 12th nationally in blocks per set (2.97) and is 25th in opponent hitting percentage (.156). Those numbers are thanks in large part to the duo of Alyssa Andreno (1.36 blocks per set) and Erica Treiber (1.38), who both rank in the top 50 nationally. Also aiding the strong defense is libero Brooke Schumacher, leads the team with 4.51 digs per set (4th in the SEC). On offense, the team got a big boost with the return of sophomore standout Tessa Grubbs, who missed the first three weeks of the season due to injury but is now posting 3.25 kills per set. Kendra Turner leads the team in kills, with Treiber and Andreno close behind.
SWANSON REACHES THE CENTURY MARK
Head coach Scott Swanson earned his 100th win at South Carolina, and 150th career win as a head coach, on Friday following the 3-2 victory at Mississippi State. Currently in his seventh season leading the program, Swanson already stands third in school history for career wins.
QUOTABLE: Scott Swanson
On the win at Mississippi State
“That was not our best match, but a lot of credit to Mississippi State. I thought they served us strategically, kind of got us rattled early with some short balls. We have a lot of young players where this is their first SEC match ... we definitely could have handled that better, but thank goodness we came out of it and played pretty well at times. Thrilled to get the win, but would’ve loved if it wasn’t quite so stressful.”
MISSISSIPPI STATE NOTABLES
Mikayla Shields’ 20 digs are a new personal best, breaking the 19 she had against Miami (Ohio). She now has six double-doubles this season, the fifth-most in the SEC.
Shields (20 digs) and Aubrey Ezell (21 digs) combined to be the first Gamecock duo to each get 20 digs in a match since Nov. 19, 2014.
The Gamecocks blocked back 12 balls against the Tigers (nine in the first set alone), the fifth match with double-digit blocks.
South Carolina out-blocked Mississippi State 10-2 for the night, and the Bulldogs hit just .079 in the match, the lowest by a Gamecock opponent since Gardner-Webb on Sept. 17, 2016.
South Carolina had started the SEC season with a win on the road for the first time since 2003.
The Gamecocks committed 18 service errors in the match, the most since Aug. 31, 2006 against Clemson.
AN ACE FOR THE AGES
Aubrey Ezell had a career weekend at the Carolina Classic tournament (9/15-16), as the junior posted 16 aces over the team’s 13 sets. In the Friday night match against Miami (Ohio), she matched her career high with six aces. Five of those six aces came in the third set alone, and pushed her past 100 for her career. Ezell is the first player in the rally-scoring era (since 2001) to eclipse 100 aces, and she is the first player to reach the century mark since Megan Hosp in 2002. Now with 114 for her career, Ezell is just two away from moving into the program’s all-time top 10.
Mikayla Shields is following up a record-breaking freshman season with an even better sophomore campaign so far in 2017. The Orlando, Fla. native has upped her kills per set from 3.25 to 3.69, is hitting 23 points higher, and already surpassed her entire 2016 total for digs. Through 13 matches, she has six double-doubles, and recently set new personal bests with 26 kills against Miami (Ohio) (9/16) and 20 digs at Mississippi State (9/22).
FURLONG AND LOCK OVERCOME INJURIES TO PROVIDE DEPTH
Juniors Courtney Furlong and Emma Lock both entered the season as question marks, after going through major injuries last season. Lock missed most of her sophomore campaign with a shoulder injury, and Furlong suffered through a back injury during the team’s winter training and had to have surgery in May. With both back in the rotation, they have immediately boosted the team both on and off the court. Lock has seen time in 12 matches, and is averaging 1.03 digs per set as a defensive specialist. Furlong has started in six matches and has been one of the team’s best passers and surest blockers as a left side pin.
ROBINSON WITH A HISTORIC DEBUT
In her first collegiate match, freshman middle Mikayla Robinson led the Gamecocks with 12 kills on 13 attacks against Mercer, giving her a final hitting percentage of .846. That is the highest by any Gamecock with double-digit kills in a match since Lori Rowe hit .870 back on Sept. 17, 1983. Robinson and Rowe are the only Gamecocks to ever finish with a hitting percentage of .800 or better with double-digit kills.
A ‘FRESH’ PERSPECTIVE
Brooke Gostomski was a multiple-time Wisconsin Volleyball Coaches Association (WVCA) All-State honoree for Muskego High School. So far this season, she has played in 11 matches and has 10 kills and 13 digs.
Ellie Popelka was a high school all-american for Jamestown High School in Virginia. She made the AVCA’s phenom team three times, and was the Wendy’s High School Heisman representative for Jamestown.
Mikayla Robinson comes to Carolina as a top-20 recruit, and is also a high school all-american. She made Volleyball Magazine’s Fab 50 team, and had a successful career at the high school and club level. Her father, Marcus, was a star football player at South Carolina and in the NFL. Robinson has started in every match so far, and ranks second on the team in kills and leads the way with 42 total blocks.
Jess Vastine is another high school all-american, coming to Columbia from Wittman, Arizona. She finished second in kills and third in aces at the state’s Division II level. Vastine has earned a larger role as the non-conference season came to a close and has six starts under her belt. She is averaging 1.08 kills and 1.36 digs per set, and also has five service aces.
The Gamecocks welcome in four freshman for the 2017 season...
SUMMER OF SHIELDS
Sophomore Mikayla Shields expanded her skills over the summer thanks to a stint with Team U.S.A. In April, she was named to the junior national team roster, and won gold with the team at the U20 Pan American Cup in Costa Rica. She was also invited to training camp for the FIVB U20 World Championships, but did not make the 12-woman roster. Shields is the first Gamecock to earn experience on the national team since 2006, when current assistant coach Shonda Cole competed for the U.S.A. Volleyball National A2 Team in 2005 and 2006.
GAMECOCKS EARN AVCA ACADEMIC HONORS
The 2016 squad earned a place on The American Volleyball Coaches Association’s (AVCA) Team Academic Award for the sixth-straight season, all coming under the direction of head coach Scott Swanson. The team’s 3.673 GPA for the team in the spring semester was the second-highest in program history.
STANDING ROOM ONLY
With six home matches already in the books, four of the six now rank among the program’s top 10 crowds of all time. In the latest rankings, the Gamecocks come in at No. 25 nationally for average attendance, fourth in the SEC.
“I think it’s the best home-court advantage in our league,” Head Coach Scott Swanson said. “Its so well-attended, well packed-out. Our student support is amazing, it’s loud, it’s intimidating and I think our athletes flourish in that environment. We want to continue to build the tradition of being a great home team.”
WHEN THE GAMECOCKS WIN...
The team is out-hitting the opposition .322 to .142, and committing 2.92 fewer attack errors per set.
Tough service has helped the team; it actually has a higher service error rate in matches won (88.7 percent in wins, 92.7 percent in losses).
Physicality at the net has been the biggest key to winning and losing. In seven wins, the team averages three blocks per set.
The offense features the middle attackers much more in wins. Starting middles Mikayla Robinson and Claire Edwards combine for 4.57 kills and hit .404 in wins, but just 3.54 with a .171 percentage in losses.
WHEN THE GAMECOCKS LOSE...
The offense is hitting just .197 in losses, and the defense is allowing opponents to hit .219. Only one of Carolina’s top six hitters are above .250 through the team’s five losses.
The team is averaging just 1.82 blocks per set in losses.
Opponents serving tough have troubled the team. In Gamecock losses, opponents’ service percentage is only slightly higher than in Gamecock wins (.906 in losses, .893 in wins). The second touch has been the issue for Carolina, as the setting percentage drops from .413 in wins to just .324 in losses.
South Carolina holds a 793-617 (.562) all-time record, dating back to 1973.
The Gamecocks joined the SEC for volleyball in 1991, and have an all-time conference record of 180-237 (.431).
In matches in the Carolina Volleyball Center, Carolina 188-102 (.651).
With 100 career wins, head coach Scott Swanson ranks third in program history for wins. Kim Hudson (1993-2004) is the program’s wins leader, with 226.