Oct. 17, 2017
SOUTH CAROLINA AT AUBURN
COLUMBIA, S.C. - The South Carolina volleyball team will compete in its first mid-week match of the season on Wednesday night, when travels to Auburn (11-6, 4-4 SEC) to face the Tigers at 8 p.m. ET. The match will air nationally on the SEC Network. The Gamecocks (9-9, 2-4 SEC) are aiming to snap a four-match losing streak to Auburn.
The Tigers are 11-6 overall and 4-4 in SEC play going into Wednesday’s match, but are trying to shake off a three-game losing streak. Auburn has one of the deepest offenses in the conference, with six different attackers averaging 1.50 kills per set or more. Shaina White leads the way with 2.70 kills and an impressive .406 hitting percentage. Auburn’s defense averages just 1.50 blocks per set, but are holding opponents to just a .190 hitting percentage thanks to a strong back row anchored by libero Jesse Earl. As the SEC leader in digs, Earl is averaging 5.30 per set and also is one of the conference's toughest servers (0.44 per set).
ARKANSAS/OLE MISS WEEKEND NOTABLES
Claire Edwards’ three solo blocks vs. Ole Miss are a new career best, and are the most in a single match for Carolina this season.
The defense’s 41 digs against the Rebels are the second most in a three-set match this season. Aubrey Ezell led the way with 17.
Mikayla Robinson’s 10 kills vs. Ole Miss marked the fifth double-digit effort of the season, her second in SEC play.
After averaging just 1.33 kills per set in her first seven matches of the season, Abreia Epps is at 2.00 per set with at least five kills in the last five matches.
The Gamecock offense hit just .091 at Arkansas, with 19 hitting errors. Errors would be the x-factor for the match, as Carolina combined for 35 total errors on the night (19 hitting, six on service, four on serve receive, four on block attempts, two on sets).
Mikayla Shields’ 10 digs vs. Arkansas led the team, and was her third conference match this season with double-digit digs.
AN ACE FOR THE AGES
Thanks to her team-high 33 aces so far this season, junior Aubrey Ezell became 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. In the win over Tennessee on Oct. 1, Ezell reached an even more impressive milestone. She recorded her 117th career ace, moving her into 10th place in program history. She is the first Gamecock to crack the top 10 since 2002. Currently, the Granbury, Texas native leads the SEC with her 33 aces, and ranks 14th nationally with 0.49 per set.
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 3.60, and already surpassed her entire 2016 total for digs. Through 16 matches, she has eight double-doubles, and recently set new personal bests with 26 kills against Miami (Ohio) (9/16) and 20 digs at Mississippi State (9/22).
The Gamecocks are 1-4, with three of those losses coming at home.
The offense is hitting just .177, compared to its overall season percentage of .239. Opponents are averaging two more kills per set and are hitting .277.
Mikayla Shields leads the team with 3.37 kills per set, but her hitting percentage is just .202, compared to her overall season percentage of .292.
Aubrey Ezell is averaging 4.63 digs per set, but South Carolina as a whole has averaged just 12.37 digs compared to 14.42 for opponents.
Over the last five matches…
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.
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. The team’s 3.673 GPA for the team in the spring semester was the second-highest in program history.
STANDING ROOM ONLY
With ten home matches already in the books, four of the nine now rank among the program’s top 10 crowds of all time. In the latest rankings, the Gamecocks come in at No. 21 nationally for cumulative attendance, third in the SEC.
WHEN THE GAMECOCKS WIN...
The team is out-hitting the opposition .318 to .165, and committing 1.41 fewer attack errors per set than in losses.
Tough service has helped the team; it actually has a higher service error rate in matches won (89 percent in wins, 92 percent in losses).
Physicality at the net has been the biggest key to winning and losing. In nine wins, the team averages 2.77 blocks per set.
The offense features the middle attackers much more in wins. Starting middles Mikayla Robinson and Claire Edwards combine for 4.58 kills and hit .405 in wins, but just 3.59 with a .180 percentage in losses.
WHEN THE GAMECOCKS LOSE...
The offense is hitting just .173 in losses, and the defense is allowing opponents to hit .238. Only one of Carolina’s top five hitters are above .250 through the team’s nine losses.
Oddly enough, seven of South Carolina’s nine losses have come in matches where they won the first set. By comparison, the 2016 team went 16-1 when taking the opening game, 2-11 when losing it.
Opponents serving tough have troubled the team. In Gamecock losses, opponents’ service percentage is lower than the Gamecocks (.903 to .910). The second touch has been the issue for Carolina, as the setting percentage drops from .411 in wins to just .312 in losses.
South Carolina holds a 794-621 (.561) all-time record, dating back to 1973.
The Gamecocks joined the SEC for volleyball in 1991, and have an all-time conference record of 182-254 (.417).
In matches in the Carolina Volleyball Center, Carolina 189-107 (.638) overall and 94-90 (.511) in SEC matches.
Dottie Hampton was elevated to interim head coach on Oct. 4, 2017, she is the 12th head coach in program history.