Oct. 21, 2017
SOUTH CAROLINA AT ALABAMA
COLUMBIA, S.C. - The South Carolina volleyball team travels back to the Heart of Dixie to close out the week of SEC action, as the Gamecocks take on Alabama Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. ET. The match will air on the SEC Network, with Cara Capuano and Bailey Webster on the call. South Carolina looks to go 2-for-2 in Alabama this week, after beating Auburn 3-1 on Wednesday night on The Plains.
Alabama stands at 14-8 overall and 2-6 in the SEC coming into the week, and lost to Florida on Friday at home. The Crimson Tide have turned to an offense by committee following the graduation of standout pin Krystal Rivers, who finished 2016 with more attacks and kills than the next three Tide hitters combined. This season, four different attackers average over two kills per set or more, led by Leah Lawrence's 2.51 and transfer Ginger Perinar's 2.82. Lawrence is also one of the top blockers in the SEC, averaging 1.11 per set with an impressive 26 solo blocks. While the offense provides multiple options for hitters, the efficiency has been one of the team's biggest achilles heels this season. The team ranks 12th in the SEC with a hitting percentage of just .185 (.165 in SEC play). However, thanks to the play of Lawrence and libero Quincey Gary (4.61 digs per set), Alabama is holding opponents to a .192 hitting percentage through 22 matches.
The Gamecock defense beat Auburn at its own game, out-digging the Tigers 69-56 in the match. The 69 digs are a high for conference matches this season, is second behind only the UNC Wilmington match for most digs in a four-set match. The 17.25 digs per set is an improvement from the team's 11.27 average during its three-game losing streak.
The win snaps a four-game losing streak to Auburn. The Tigers had won seven of the last eight matchups dating back to 2012. The team's last win at Auburn came in 2014.
Aubrey Ezell matched a career high with 25 digs.
Mikayla Robinson's 13 kills are one off a personal best, and give her double-digit kills in back-to-back matches for the first time this season.
Auburn committed 19 errors on serve Wednesday night; the previous high for a Gamecock opponent was 14 by Georgia.
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 3.58, and already surpassed her entire 2016 total for digs and ranks second on the team with a 2.44 average per set. Through 19 matches, she has seven double-doubles, the sixth-most of any SEC player.
The Gamecocks are 2-3, with two of those losses coming at home.
The offense is hitting just .190, compared to its overall season percentage of .240. Opponents are averaging 2.20 more kills per set and are hitting .252.
Mikayla Shields leads the team with 353 kills per set, but her hitting percentage is just .229, compared to her overall season percentage of .292.
Aubrey Ezell is averaging 4.89 digs per set, but South Carolina as a whole has averaged just 13.53 digs compared to 14.74 for opponents.
The team has struggled to get consistent offense from its left side hitters, as Abreia Epps, Alicia Starr, Courtney Furlong and Jess Vastine have combined to average just 4.1 kills per set with a .093 hitting percentage.
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 .312 to .169, 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, 91 percent in losses).
Physicality at the net has been the biggest key to winning and losing. In ten wins, the team averages 2.66 blocks per set while opponents have just 1.36.
The offense features the middle attackers much more in wins. Starting middles Mikayla Robinson and Claire Edwards combine for 4.65 kills and hit .395 in wins, but just 3.44 with a .178 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 795-621 (.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 183-254 (.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.