COLUMBIA, S.C. -
The Gamecocks, fresh off their first Southeastern Conference win of the year, hit the midway point in the league schedule with an ESPNU broadcast showdown vs. No. 13 Florida on Wednesday night at 8 p.m. The second half starts on Friday night when Mississippi State comes to town for a 7 p.m. first serve. Gametracker live stats will be available for both matches, while the live video feed returns on Friday.
Gamecocks Host Fifth-Annual Match for Breast Cancer Awareness
For the fifth-consecutive year, South Carolina is hosting a "Dig Pink" match, with the team raising awareness for combating the deadly disease. For the second-consecutive year, the Gamecocks will don pink jerseys for the occasion. The team is 2-2 in these special matches.
This Week's Promotions
vs. No. 13 Florida - Wed., Oct. 19, 8 p.m.
- Dig Ping - The first 200 fans receive pink shirts, but wear pink to support breast cancer awareness to show off on ESPNU!
- Cocky's Brithday Celebration - The first 100 fans can take their picture with the birthday bird!
- Student Night - Double rewards points and the first 100 students get free pizza
vs. Mississippi State - Fri., Oct. 21, 7 p.m.
- Dads & Daughters Night
- Facebook Friday - Show a coupon from the Volleyball fan page for a prize
Facing the Heart of the SEC
South Carolina meets four of the top six teams in the SEC in the next four outings, including taking on the top three SEC Eastern Division squads. Starting with Wednesday's match against Florida (2nd, 8-1), the Gamecocks follow with contests against Mississippi State (T-5th overall, 5-5), at Kentucky (3rd, 8-8) and at Tennessee (1st, 9-1).
October Started Almost All vs. SEC West
A scheduling quirk pitted the Gamecocks against all six SEC Western Division teams inside of seven matches to begin October. Starting with the Oct. 2 match at Auburn, South Carolina will have played all six teams on the other side of the league inside of 20 days. Florida is the first SEC East foe the Gamecocks will play in October.
700 And Counting
In the 39th year of sponsoring volleyball, South Carolina has made seven NCAA Tournament appearances and posted 17 20-win seasons in history. On Sat., Sept. 10, the Gamecocks tallied the 700th win in program history, dispatching College of Charleston in five for the win. Not content there, the Gamecocks started the climb to 800 with a sweep of Winthrop. South Carolina is the sixth team in the SEC to compile 700 wins all-time, following Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU and Tennessee.
The Improvement Is Easy to See
South Carolina surpassed its win total from 2010 before starting SEC play. The 2011 edition won its first seven matches inside the first eight days of the schedule. To put that in perspective, the Gamecocks did not win their seventh match of 2010 until the 27th match last season on Nov. 13, 79 days into the season. They did not win their first match of the year until Sept. 10, which was the third weekend of play.
Once Again, South Carolina Among the Youngest
After tying for the nation's lead with nine freshmen on the roster last year, the Gamecocks are still among one of the youngest teams in the country. According to data compiled by Brian Wolff at Buffalo, the 12 underclassmen (freshmen and sophomores) rank eighth in the country in number. By percentage of roster members, the Gamecocks' 75 percent mark stands sixth in the country. A pair of historically-strong programs also make the list, with Penn State and Hawaii also making the top 10 in both.
Carolina Relying on Rookies Early in 2011
South Carolina is a young team, as you likely read above. Two freshmen outside hitters, Hanna Forst and Bethanie Thomas, have filled starting roles most of the season. Thomas stands second on the team with her 2.36 kills average and third with a 2.95 digs average. Forst ranks sixth on the team in kills per set (1.69) and digs per set (1.98).
South Carolina Among Nation's Best
Halfway into the season, the Gamecocks are among the nation's leaders in digs, ranking 25th with a 17.36 per-set average. Offensively, South Carolina is 56th in assists (12.66), 58th in hitting (.238) and 62nd in kills (13.55). The full stats breakdown for the Gamecocks come on page seven of the notes.
Looking to Change Fortune vs. Ranked Teams
Since 1991, the Gamecocks hold a 8-88 record against ranked opponents. Half of those eight wins over ranked teams have come against SEC foes, two over Florida. Against top-10 teams, that mark falls to 1-45, with the lone win coming over a sixth-ranked Gator team on Sept. 17, 2006.
Competition on Career Digs Chart
Currently, three Gamecocks appear in a row on the all-time digs list at South Carolina. Junior Taylor Bruns ranks 47th with 424 digs, 18 ahead of sophomores Juliette Thévenin and Paige Wheeler, who are tied for 48th with 406 digs. The next person outside of each other to pass is Julie Morrison, who made 437 digs from 1984-87.
Top 50 in Gamecock History
A quartet of Gamecocks continue to climb in the top 50 on South Carolina's all-time lists in 2011. Senior Teresa Stenlund stands 49th in kills (412) and attack attempts (1052) for her career, while sophomore Juliette Thévenin is currently tied for 48th on the digs charts with sophomore libero Paige Wheeler with 406. Thévenin also ranks in the top 50 in kills (548, 35th), attacks (1,462, 35th) and points (617.5, 46th) while Stenlund is in the top 50 in points (520.0, 50th) and in the top 40 in blocks solo (29, T-27th), block assists (142, 31st) and total blocks (171, 32nd).
Junior setter Taylor Bruns ranks 11th in school history in assists (1,568), passing Petra Lorenzi during the College of Charleston Invitational. She's now tied for 47th in aces with 50 and stands 47th in digs with 424 in her career.
Belgian Sensation Picking up Where She Left Off Juliette Thévenin started 2011 much as she finished 2010, when she earned SEC All-Freshman Team honors and became the fifth freshman since 1983 to lead the Gamecocks in kills, joining Lori Rowe, Cally Plummer, Berna Dwyer and Lynae Vanden Hull with that distinction.
The sophomore returned to action at Ole Miss after missing five matches due to concussion symptoms and picked up where she left off, posting a double-double with 17 kills and 10 digs in the four-set victory. Thévenin ranks fourth in the SEC in kills and points and ranks eighth in digs.
Thévenin Return Brings About Season Best
South Carolina posted a season-best .394 hitting percentage in the win at Ole Miss on Sunday afternoon. That ranks as the third-best four-set match mark in Gamecock history and the highest in the rally-scoring era. The return of sophomore outside hitter Juliette Thévenin seemed to spark the Gamecock offense and open things up for other hitters.
Opportunity Knocks, Howley Answers
When Juliette Thévenin was out due to injury, it created the chance for some other players to show their skills in the lineup. Redshirt freshman Cara Howley took the opportunity and ran with it, putting herself back in the rotation with her stellar play. The McKinney, Texas, product tied for the team lead with a 2.50 kills average and helped better the team's hitting percentage during the five-match stretch with her .225 mark. On Sunday, with Thévenin taking some pressure off the rest of the team, Howley shined, posting 12 kills and a .524 hitting percentage.
In 2010, Howley saw her true freshman season cut short due to a knee injury in her first career SEC match. At the time of the injury, she ranked third on the team in hitting percentage and kills per set.
Stenlund Stands Strong as Lone Senior
The only senior on this year's squad, Teresa Stenlund is providing a steady presence in the middle. She ranks third on the team in kills (2.14 per set), while she been a larger presence at the net, posting 0.89 blocks per set, including a 1.29 per set average in the weekend against LSU and Arkansas. She became the 50th person in South Carolina Volleyball history to record 500 points, hitting the mark with her block assist in the third set against Arkansas.
Stenlund has tended to save her best for the home tournament. Last season, Stenlund tied a 27-year-old record with five solo blocks in the three-set affair against Lipscomb during the Gamecock Invitational. During this year's event, she hit .393 and averaged 1.45 blocks per set, tops on the team.
Weekday Games a Mixed Bag
South Carolina owns an 11-15 record in games played Monday thru Thursday in the rally-scoring era (since 2001). That includes six straight losses to Florida in that stretch (10/10/07, 10/31/07, 10/15/08, 11/26/08, 10/7/09, & 10/27/10).
Wheeler Posting Gaudy Numbers
Sophomore Paige Wheeler came into the season fighting to be the one to fill the huge shoes of Hannah Lawing and, before her, Sarah Cline in the libero role. So far, she has played well, leading the team and ranking third in the SEC with 4.39 digs per set. The sophomore earned all-tournament team honors at the College of Charleston Invitational, averaging five digs per set during the event. She posted the third 30+ dig contest in the SEC this season with 31 in the win over College of Charleston.
She averaged 5.86 digs per set during the LSU/Arkansas home weekend on Oct. 7-9, including posting 25 digs against the Tigers on Friday night.
The Gators bring a 15-3 overall record and an 8-1 league mark into Wednesday's match against the Gamecocks. Florida leads the SEC in hitting percentage, outpacing the second-place team by 50 points, and opponent hitting percentage. Also, the Gators pace the league in service aces, averaging 1.7 per set.
Kristy Jaeckel ranks in the top 10 in the SEC in hitting percentage (7th, .315), kills (5th, 3.61) and aces (6th, 0.29). Kelly Murphy tops the team with 5.90 assists per set and 0.41 service aces per set while ranking second with 2.38 kills per set. Tangerine Wiggs (.351, 2.35 kills average) and Stephanie Ferrell (.249, 2.38 kills average) are the next two options, while Cassandra Anderson (1.45 kills per set) and Betsy Smith (1.42 kills per set) hold down the middle. Smith leads the squad with a 1.07 blocks per set. Chanel Brown is the second setter, averaging 5.63 assists per set. Taylor Unroe serves as the libero, posting 3.65 digs per set, seventh-best in the SEC.
Series History vs. the Gators
Florida holds a 44-7 advantage in the series over South Carolina, including a 20-4 mark in Columbia. The Gamecocks' last win in the series came on Sept. 17, 2006, a four-set victory over then-sixth-ranked Gator team. Florida has won nine straight since that contest five years ago.
Reuniting Club Members
Florida's Betsy Smith played for the A5 club out of the greater Atlanta region, the same club that produced Gamecocks Lindsey Craft and Brandi Byers.
Gamecocks Look to Change Results in Road TV Matches
South Carolina makes its first television appearance of 2011 against Florida. Overall, the Gamecocks are 12-14 when the big cameras come out. On national cable TV, South Carolina is 1-2, losing to the Gators the last two seasons on ESPNU. The full chart of Gamecock matches on television can be found in the PDF version of the notes linked above.
Scouting Mississippi State
The Bulldogs bring a 10-9 record to Columbia and a 5-5 SEC record. Tied for fifth in the league's overall standings, the Bulldogs do their best work defensively. The team ranks seventh in SEC games, holding opponents to a .237 hitting percentage. The team is second in digs with 15.14 per set and eighth in blocks with 2.00 per frame. Offensively, Mississippi State is 11th in SEC matches only with a .182 hitting percentage and ninth in kills (11.76) and assists (11.08).
Caitlin Rance leads the Bulldogs and ranks second in the SEC with 4.25 kills per set. She also ranks third on the team with 2.65 digs per frame. Lainey Wyman leads State in blocks (1.07 per set) and is second in kills (2.56 per frame). Hannah Wilkinson hits .333 and posts 0.88 blocks per set. Faith Stenwedell and Chanelle Baker both average just under two kills per set. Paris Perret guides the offense, averaging 10.54 assists per set. Hillary Parker (3.45 digs per set) and Bentley Witte (3.05 digs per set) captain the back-row defense.
Series History vs. the Bulldogs
South Carolina owns a 25-10 lead in the series against Mississippi State. At home, the Gamecocks are 14-3 against the Bulldogs, winning four straight at the Volleyball Competition Facility. State took the earlier meeting in Starkville in five sets.
Pair of Top Outside Hitters on Opposite Sides Friday
Friday's matchup pits the second- and fourth-best outside hitters in the SEC stats against each other. The Bulldogs' Caitlin Rance stands second in the league with 4.25 kills per set, while Gamecock Juliette Thévenin stands fourth with a 3.88 kills average.
A pair of 2010 Bob Jones High School grads from Madison, Ala., get back together on the volleyball court on Friday. Freshmen Rachel Williams from Mississippi State and Bethanie Thomas also played club volleyball at the Rocket City Volleyball Club in Huntsville, Ala.
The Gamecocks have posted outstanding individual efforts this fall, with some ranking on the program's single-match charts. Sophomore Juliette Thévenin registered on two lists during the team's season-opening win over Montana. Her 21 kills and 50 attacks both tied for fourth on the three-set match list.
During the Gamecock Invitational, freshman Bethanie Thomas's .577 hitting percentage against Elon became the fifth-best performance on the four-set match list. And sophomore Paige Wheeler tallied 28 digs against the Phoenix, tied for third on that list.
You Never Know What You'll Hear
The Gamecocks have people who can speak in many different tongues. Student-athletes Teresa Stenlund and Juliette Thévenin both list four languages in their grasp, while assistant coach Michelle Collier can speak three. If the staff's kids (each coach has a child aged two or under) picked up all the languages one might hear from that trio, they would be working on seven languages (Dutch, English, French, German, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish).