Nov. 21, 2017
SOUTH CAROLINA @ OLE MISS, HOME VS. MISS. STATE
COLUMBIA, S.C. - The South Carolina volleyball team bookends the Thanksgiving holiday with a pair of matches to close out the 2017 regular season. The Gamecocks travel to Ole Miss Wednesday night for a 7:30 ET first serve, then wrap up the year with Senior Night Friday against Mississippi State at 7 p.m. The team will honor seniors Abreia Epps and Courtney McKeag prior to the start of the match.
SCOUTING OLE MISS
Ole Miss comes into the week with a 16-14 overall record and a 7-10 mark in SEC play. Despite the loss of key contributors like Katie Cather (.351 hitting percentage, 251 kills) and setter Aubrey Edie (the program’s all-time assists leader) to graduation, the Rebels have found success riding the arms of three six-rotation outside hitters. Seniors Lexi Thompson and Kate Gibson combine for 5.89 kills and 5.72 digs per set, and right side hitter Emily Stroup has made the jump in year two in Oxford and leading the team with 3.18 kills per set. Defensively, Ole Miss ranks second in the conference with 16.08 digs per set, with libero Caroline Adams leading the effort with 3.82 per set. At the net, the Rebels are averaging two blocks per set, led by sophomore Nayo Warnell’s 0.92 per set average.
LAST TIME VS. OLE MISS…
South Carolina lost a 3-0 decision to Ole Miss at the Carolina Volleyball Center on Oct. 15, 25-21, 25-22, 25-19. The Gamecocks committed fewer attack errors than the Rebels, but Ole Miss - the SEC leader in digs at the time – were able to pass up 50 balls over the three sets to limit the Gamecocks’ hitting percentage to just .168. The previous high for opponent digs in a three-set match this season was 40, by North Florida. Thompson led the Rebels with 16 kills, and Thompson posted a double-double with 11 kills and 14 digs.
SCOUTING MISSISSIPPI STATE
The Bulldogs brought a large contingent of newcomers into the season, as the program lost five starters from 2016 and welcomed in 10 new student-athletes for third-year head coach David McFatrich. That has come with growing pains in SEC play, with MSU still winless through 16 matches entering the final week and has taken just five sets total in conference play. Pacing the offense are returning letterwinnners Jelena Vujcin (3.47 kills per set) and Kris Carr (2.71 kills), with freshman Sara Maddox adding in 2.36 kills per set from the right side. Defensively, freshmen middles Laura Rose Gray and Liv Benner lead the team in blocks, and senior DS/libero Peyton Harris leads the team with 3.05 digs per set. The Bulldogs rank fourth in the SEC for service aces, but dead last in team hitting percentage and opponent hitting percentage.
LAST TIME VS. MISSISSIPPI STATE…
South Carolina volleyball opened the SEC season with a 3-2 win at Mississippi State on Sept. 22, 19-25, 25-17, 26-24, 22-25, 15-6. The team opened the conference slate with a road win for the first time since 2003. South Carolina out-blocked Mississippi State 10-2 for the night, and the Bulldogs hit just .079 in the match, the lowest by a Gamecock opponent since Gardner-Webb on Sept. 17, 2016. Mikayla Shields and Aubrey Ezell each went over 20 digs in the match, but 18 service errors from the Gamecocks kept the Bulldogs hanging around until a convincing 15-6 win in the fifth set.
WEEKEND NOTABLES (MISSOURI, ARKANSAS)
The Gamecocks penned in Alabama’s outside hitters, limiting their four pins to a .074 attack percentage.
Mikayla Shields set the program’s all-time sophomore kills record against Alabama, passing Shonda Cole’s record of 379 set back in 2004.
Courtney Koehler’s 14 digs against Alabama are a career high, surpassing her previous best of 11.
Claire Edwards led the team with six blocks (three solo) against the Crimson Tide. She tied the program’s rally-scoring record for most solo blocks in a four-set match.
Mikayla Shields’ six aces at Texas A&M are the second-most for a three-set match in the rally-scoring era and ties her career high.
Aubrey Ezell’s 20 digs at A&M are the most by a Gamecock in a three-set match this season. The junior libero now has seven 20-dig matches this season.
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 31st nationally with 0.43 per set.
Aubrey Ezell is one ace away from moving up to eighth in career aces.
Ezell is also 13 digs away from moving up to third for single-season digs in the rally-scoring era.
Mikayla Robinson is six blocks away from moving into the top five for single-season blocks in the rally-scoring era.
Mikayla Shields needs two more points to enter the top ten for career points in the rally-scoring era.
Shields needs 13 more kills to move up to ninth in career kills for the rally-scoring era
Courtney Koehler is 39 assists away from entering the top five for assists in a single season.
Here are some stats to track heading into the week...
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 3.69, and already doubled her entire 2016 total for digs and ranks second on the team with a 2.44 average per set. Through 28 matches, she has 10 double-doubles, 10th in the SEC.
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 two losses at home
The offense is hitting .226, but the defense is allowing opponents to hit .285.
The two Mikaylas (Robinson and Shields) have been nearly unstoppable, combining to average 5.90 kills per set.
The team has found more consistent offense from its left-side pins, with Courtney Furlong and Abreia Epps combining for 4.18 kills per set.
Over the last five matches…
EZELL JOINS AN EXCLUSIVE CLUB
Aubrey Ezell passed 1,000 career digs at Texas A&M on Sunday, making her the fourth player in the program’s 45-year history to reach 2,000 assists, 1,000 digs and 100 aces in a career. The last Gamecock to achieve the three milestones was Megan Hosp (1999-02), Ashley Edlund (1995-98) and Jodi Thompson (1991-94) round out the exclusive quartet.
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 1.01 blocks per set. On a team level, her 108 total blocks are 39 more than any other Gamecock this season, and broke Megan Laughlin’s 2007 record for total blocks by a freshman. Also, her 16 solo blocks already ranks fifth in the rally-scoring era for a single season. She hasn’t just been strong defensively, as her 2.29 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 88 straight matches played (328 sets). Currently, her 328 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 .303 to .179, and committing 1.30 fewer attack errors per set than in losses.
Physicality at the net has been the biggest key to winning and losing. In 12 wins, the team averages 2.53 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 4.60 kills in wins, but just 3.52 with a .197 hitting percentage in losses.
WHEN THE GAMECOCKS LOSE...
The offense is hitting just .178 in losses, opponents are hitting .250.
Unforced errors cost the team; when totaling unblocked attack errors, ball handling errors, block errors and service errors, Carolina averages 7.78 per set in losses.
This year, the team has a 9-10 record when winning the first set, after going 16-1 last season.
Tough service has almost no bearing on the team’s success; the team is just 2-6 when it records more aces than its opponents, and 5-10 when committing fewer service errors.
South Carolina holds a 797-628 (.559) all-time record, dating back to 1973.
The Gamecocks joined the SEC for volleyball in 1991, and have an all-time conference record of 185-261 (.415).
In matches in the Carolina Volleyball Center, Carolina 190-110 (.633) overall and 95-93 (.505) 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.