Nov. 2, 2017
SOUTH CAROLINA AT TENNESSEE AND KENTUCKY
COLUMBIA, S.C. - The South Carolina volleyball team will travel for a pair of weekend road matches, facing Tennessee Friday night and No. 6 Kentucky on Sunday afternoon. The Gamecocks (10-12, 3-7 SEC) look to extend their three-game win streak against the Volunteers, as well as earning their first win in Lexington since 2003.
The Volunteers are 4-7 in the SEC heading into Friday's rematch, and coming off a big 3-0 sweep at LSU last weekend. One of the most physical teams in the country, UT ranks 16th nationally in blocks per set (2.82) and holds opponents to a .182 hitting percentage. Those numbers are thanks in large part to the duo of Alyssa Andreno (1.18 blocks per set) and Erica Treiber (1.36), who rank 73rd and 34th nationally, respectively. 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 a team-high 2.82 kills per set. Kendra Turner ranks second on the team with 2.29 kills, with Treiber close behind (2.26 kills per set, .325 hitting percentage).
LAST TIME VS. TENNESSEE...
The Gamecocks claimed a 3-1 win over Tennessee (8-5, 1-3 SEC) on Oct. 1, hitting.301 for the match, with Mikayla Shields leading the way with 21 kills. The South Carolina offense was able to adjust to Tennessee's big block and hit .301 in the match. The Gamecocks made just five unforced attack errors for the match, and despite 13 blocks for Tennessee, had two sets with a hitting percentage above .450. Courtney Koehler's 50 assists were a career high, and the most by a Gamecock setter since Aubrey Ezell against Tennessee on Oct. 18, 2015. Tennessee was led by 16 kills from Andreno and eight blocks by Treiber.
SCOUTING NO. 6 KENTUCKY
The Wildcats come into the weekend atop the SEC, owning a 19-2 overall record and a 10-0 mark in conference play. They will have a rematch with No. 4 Florida on Friday night before Sunday's match with Carolina. Kentucky added to its depth with a pair of instant-impact freshmen; setter Madison Lilley leads the SEC with 11.96 assists per set, and pin Avery Skinner ranks second on the team with 3.23 kills per set. They add to an already impressive lineup that includes Player of the Year candidate Leah Edmond (4.26 kills, 0.32 aces, 0.61 blocks per set) and senior middle Kaz Brown (1.16 blocks, 2.33 kills per set). As a team, Kentucky is hitting .321 for the year, far and away the best in the SEC and fourth overall nationally.
After an even first two sets offensively, Auburn held a 30-15 advantage in kills over sets three and four to earn the win. South Carolina finished the match hitting .088, the fourth time in SEC play hitting under .100.
Mikayla Robinson's nine blocks are a season best by any Gamecock individual.
South Carolina had 14 blocks in the match, a season high. The previous best was 13 against Georgia.
Behind her 33 assists, Courtney Koehler moved into third for most assists by a Carolina sophomore in the rally-scoring era, with 774.
Courtney Furlong earned the start and matched a career-high with five blocks.
AN ACE FOR THE AGES
Thanks to her team-high 40 aces so far this season, junior Aubrey Ezell became the first player in the rally-scoring era (since 2001) to eclipse 100 aces, and the first player to reach 100 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 40 aces, and ranks 12th nationally with 0.48 per set.
Aubrey Ezell is one ace away from moving up to eighth in career aces.
Ezell is also 37 digs away from entering the top five for single-season digs in the rally-scoring era.
Mikayla Robinson is 12 blocks away from the freshman blocks record, and can also move into the top five for single-season blocks in the rally-scoring era with 12 more.
Mikayla Shields needs two more solo blocks to enter the top five for a single season.
Shields needs 63 more kills to reach 700 for her career; only one other sophomore has reached 700 kills in the rally-scoring era -- current assistant Shonda Cole.
Courtney Koehler is 60 assists away from the sophomore assist record in the rally-scoring era.
Here are some stats to track heading into the weekend...
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 3.52, and already surpassed her entire 2016 total for digs and ranks second on the team with a 2.42 average per set. Through 22 matches, she has eight double-doubles, the sixth-most of any SEC player.
The Gamecocks are 1-4, with two of those losses coming at home.
The offense is hitting just .165, and opponents are averaging three more kills per set and are hitting .213.
Mikayla Shields leads the team with 3.11 kills per set, but her hitting percentage is just .193, compared to her overall season percentage of .271.
Mikayla Robinson has stepped up her game, with a .323 hitting percentage, 2.42 kills and 1.32 blocks per set.
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 3.60 kills per set with a .053 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.
STANDING ROOM ONLY
With 11 home matches already in the books, four now rank among the program's top 10 crowds of all time. In the latest rankings, the Gamecocks come in at No. 28 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 3.45 with a .181 percentage in losses.
WHEN THE GAMECOCKS LOSE...
The offense is hitting just .162 in losses, and the defense is allowing opponents to hit .230. None of Carolina's top five hitters are above .240 through the team's 12 losses.
Unforced errors have been the cause for the team's lower hitting rate. The Gamecocks have made 170 unforced attack errors in the 12 losses, compared to 83 in 10 wins.
Oddly enough, eight of South Carolina's 11 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.
South Carolina holds a 795-624 (.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 183-257 (.417).
In matches in the Carolina Volleyball Center, Carolina 189-108 (.638) overall and 94-91 (.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. She earned her first win as the interim on Oct. 18 at Auburn.