Nov. 16, 2017
SOUTH CAROLINA HOSTS ALUMNI NIGHT FRIDAY
COLUMBIA, S.C. - The South Carolina volleyball team begins its penultimate weekend of the season on Friday night, hosting Alabama at 7 p.m. for Alumni Night. Gamecock greats from years past will be honored before the match. To close out the weekend, Carolina travels out to Texas A&M for a noon first serve with the Aggies.
Alabama stands at 17-11 overall and 5-9 in the SEC coming into the week. 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, five different attackers average over two kills per set or more, led by Ginger Perinar’s 3.03 and Leah Lawrence’s 2.36. Lawrence is also one of the top blockers in the SEC, averaging 1.06 per set with an impressive 35 solo blocks. The team ranks 11th in the SEC with a hitting percentage of just .188 (.180 in SEC play). However, thanks to the play of Lawrence and a back line defense anchored by libero Quincey Gary (4.47 digs per set), Alabama is holding opponents to a .201 hitting percentage through 28 matches.
LAST TIME VS. ALABAMA…
South Carolina lost in five sets in Tuscaloosa on Oct. 22, giving up a 2-1 lead in the match to the Tide. Neither offense was particularly efficient, as the Gamecocks held a .188 to .178 advantage in attack percentage, but Alabama hit .556 with 11 kills in the fifth set to cruise to the win. Mikayla Robinson and Mikayla Shields combined for 33 of the team’s 59 kills, and Robinson hit .500 for the match. Alabama rode the arm of Ginger Perinar to victory, getting 23 kills on 64 swings from their pin.
SCOUTING TEXAS A&M
The Aggies have had an uncharacteristically poor season to date, entering the week at 7-15 overall and 4-11 in conference play. Texas A&M boasts a top-50 RPI despite its record, thanks in large part to a grueling non-conference schedule that featured matches against four top-10 opponents, and a conference slate that pairs them with home-and-away series against the top three teams in the SEC - Florida, Kentucky and Missouri. Sophomore Hollann Hans leads the offense with 3.43 kills per set, but hits just .152. The Aggies as a team are hitting .179 this season and .164 in conference play, both second to last in the SEC.
WEEKEND NOTABLES (MISSOURI, ARKANSAS)
South Carolina had one of the best nights of offensive efficiency in program history against Missouri. The Gamecocks finished at .343, the second-highest percentage for a five-set match in the program’s 44-year history. Mikayla Shields’ .480 hitting percentage on 50 swings was good for the fifth-highest in a five-setter in the rally-scoring era (since 2001).
South Carolina tamed Missouri’s vaunted net defenders, as the Tigers blocked just eight balls for the night. They came into the match averaging almost three per set, and were ranked seventh in the nation for blocks.
Aubrey Ezell shattered the program’s record for digs by a junior on Wednesday night, as she moved her total to 432. Its also the fifth-most in a single season in the program’s rally-scoring era.
Against Arkansas, the Gamecocks were able to hold Pilar Victoria, the NCAA kills leader, to just 13 kills and a .146 hitting percentage, but the Hogs out-hit them .270 to .248 in the match. That includes a combined hitting percentage of .344 in the final two sets.
Abreia Epps’ 12 kills vs. Arkansas are a season high, and the senior hit .409 for the match. She has double-digit kills in two of the last three matches.
Mikayla Robinson clinched the freshman record for most total blocks in a single season, with 100, and also moved into the top five for most solo blocks in a single season (with 15).
Jess Vastine set a personal best with three aces in the match with Arkansas, and Courtney Koehler tied her career best with three aces as well.
Mikayla Shields claimed the sophomore record for most solo blocks in a single season, with 16. The record was previously held by Niece Curry in 2002.
Aubrey Ezell’s 16 digs against Arkansas moved her to fifth in career digs in the rally-scoring era (with 975).
The junior is the first Gamecock to crack the top 10 for career aces since 2002, as her 134 aces put her sixth in program history. So far this season, she has 12 matches with two or more aces, and she is one away from matching her personal best for a season and four away from tying the record for most aces by a junior in the rally-scoring era. Currently, the Granbury, Texas native leads the SEC with her 46 aces, and ranks 20th nationally with 0.46 per set.
Aubrey Ezell is one ace away from matching her career best in a season, with 47.
Ezell is also 25 digs away from reaching 1,000 for her career.
Mikayla Shields needs six kills to enter the top 10 for career kills in the rally-scoring era.
Shields needs 10 more kills to set the Gamecock's sophomore kills record.
Courtney Koehler is 107 assists away from cracking the top five for most assists in a single season.
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 in 2017. The Orlando, Fla. native has upped her kills per set from 3.25 to 3.65, and already doubled her entire 2016 total for digs and ranks second on the team with a 2.47 average per set. Through 26 matches, she has 10 double-doubles, the fifth-most of any SEC player.
On Nov. 8 against Missouri, Shields set a career high with 29 kills, and on Nov. 12 she broke 700 career kills. She is just the third sophomore in the program’s 45-year history to make it to 700 kills in just her first two seasons. The others were all-time kills leader Lori Rowe (in 1984), and current associate head coach Shonda Cole (in 2004).
The Gamecocks are 1-4, with three losses at home
The offense is hitting .245, but the defense is allowing opponents to average 13.2 kills per set and a .275 hitting percentage.
The two Mikaylas (Robinson and Shields) have been nearly unstoppable, combining to average 6.53 kills per set with both hitting over .325.
The team has found more consistent offense from its left-side pins, with Courtney Furlong and Abreia Epps combining for 3.70 kills per set.
Over the last five matches…
EZELL SEEKING MEMBERSHIP TO AN EXCLUSIVE CLUB
Aubrey Ezell has a chance to do something only three other Gamecocks in the program’s 45-year history have done, as the junior libero approaches a trio of career milestones. She passed 100 career aces on Oct. 1 against Tennessee, and on Nov. 8 she cracked the 2,000 career assist milestone as well. She now needs just 25 digs to make it to 1,000 for her career, which would make her the first South Carolina student-athlete since 2002 to achieve that trifecta. Since the program’s start in 1973, only three Gamecocks reached 2,000 assists/1,000 digs/100 aces: Megan Hosp (1999-02), Ashley Edlund (1995-98) and Jodi Thompson (1991-94).
ROBINSON NEARING BLOCK RECORDS IN HOME STRETCH
The Gamecocks knew they had a gem with the arrival of consensus top-25 recruit Mikayla Robinson this summer, and the freshman middle has developed into one of the top young blockers in the conference. She leads all SEC freshmen with 1.02 blocks per set. On a team level, her 100 total blocks are 35 more than any other Gamecock this season, and broke Megan Laughlin’s 2007 record for total blocks by a freshman. Also, her 15 solo blocks already ranks sixth in the rally-scoring era for a single season. She hasn’t just been strong defensively, as her 2.31 kills per set rank second on the team and she leads the team with a .318 hitting percentage.
Aubrey Ezell is on an impressive streak for the Gamecocks. The junior libero has not missed a single set in her career, entering the weekend on a stretch of 87 straight matches played (312 sets). Currently, her 321 total sets played rank 18th in the program’s rally-scoring era, but no other player in this era have played in as many consecutive sets.
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.
WHEN THE GAMECOCKS WIN...
The team is out-hitting the opposition .313 to .178, and committing 1.44 fewer attack errors per set than in losses.
Physicality at the net has been the biggest key to winning and losing. In 11 wins, the team averages 2.46 blocks per set while opponents have just 1.32.
The offense features the middle attackers much more in wins. Starting middles Mikayla Robinson and Claire Edwards combine for 4.75 kills and hit .389 in wins, but just 3.52 with a .197 percentage in losses.
WHEN THE GAMECOCKS LOSE...
The offense is hitting just .183 in losses, opponents are hitting .247.
Unforced errors cost the team; when totaling unblocked attack errors, ball handling errors, block errors and service errors, Carolina averages 6.21 per set in losses.
Wednesday against Missouri marked the 19th time this season that the Gamecocks won the first set in a match. This year, the team has a 9-10 record when winning the first set, after going 16-1 last season.
South Carolina holds a 796-627 (.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 184-260 (.417).
In matches in the Carolina Volleyball Center, Carolina 189-110 (.638) overall and 94-93 (.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.