Aug. 26, 2002
2002 marks the 10th year anniversary for Kim Christopher as the head coach of the University of South Carolina volleyball program. With six returning seniors and an experienced group of underclassmen coming back, Carolina volleyball looks towards the challenge of achieving another memorable season.
Coming off of a 20-6 season in 2001, the Gamecocks will depend on the leadership of seniors Cally Plummer, Berna Dwyer, Sam Alban, Yajaira Cadet, Nadia Sefferovich and Megan Hosp. Alban, Dwyer, Plummer and Hosp were 2001 All-SEC selections, while Plummer and Hosp were all-region selections, as well.
“This year’s team brings a wealth of experience both on the court and in life,” said Coach Christopher. “I believe their experience will help move us to another level competitively and also provide strong leadership for our incoming freshmen.”
With expectations always high, the Gamecocks’ approach to 2002 will be the same as it always has been – to aim for championships and achieve success on the court, in the classroom and as citizens. USC’s success will depend on many factors, however the Gamecocks feel their strength is in possessing a strong offensive game.
“Offensively we should be strong. We return Megan Hosp as our setter and she has been an assist leader in the SEC for the last two seasons,” said Christopher. “Defensively, we continue to work on our blocking and we have gained a better understanding during spring training. We have committed a considerable amount of time and effort to becoming a better blocking team.”
In 2001, USC advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the fifth time in the last seven years and finished second with a 10-4 record in the SEC Eastern Division, behind SEC Champion Florida. Carolina returns for 2002 with a tough preseason schedule against NCAA Tournament teams in order to help prepare for those postseason battles. USC will face five teams that were ranked in the final 2001 AVCA/USA Today Top 25 Poll, including two teams that were ranked in the top 10.
“We have a very tough preseason schedule that will help prepare us for our conference schedule,” said Christopher. “We will get a good idea of how we compare nationally.”
The Gamecocks begin the season in Lansing, Mich., in late August at the Michigan State Classic. USC will open against Oakland University, then follow with Georgetown, and wrap up the tournament with the host school, which finished the season ranked 19th. The Gamecocks then return home and host the Carolina Classic, Sept. 6-7. Carolina fans will have a chance to watch some talented West Coast teams in Arizona State and No. 14 University of Pacific. Creighton University, a contender from the Midwest, will participate in the Classic, as well. For its final non-conference tournament of the season, Carolina will travel to Long Beach, Calif., and play in the Long Beach State Invitational. There, the Gamecocks will face No. 25 San Diego and the NCAA Championship runners-up, Long Beach State, which finished the season ranked second in the nation with a 33-1 record.
As for the regular season, the Carolina-Clemson match will be Sept. 10 in Columbia, sandwiched between the Carolina Classic and the Long Beach State tournaments. USC will also host Oral Roberts on Sept. 22 for its final non-conference bout of the regular season. The Gamecocks then begin SEC play on Sept. 20 when they host Kentucky. In the SEC, USC will play home and away matches with Kentucky, Auburn, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia and No. 6 Florida. The Garnet and Black will only host Mississippi State and Ole Miss and only travel to Arkansas and LSU. The SEC Tournament will be held in Fayetteville to end conference play Nov. 21-24.
“The SEC will be tough again this year. Our road schedule will make it even tougher. It is always harder to win when you travel,” said Christopher. “I am confident that our upperclassmen understand the demands of competing on the road. We will rely on their leadership to keep us playing at a high level throughout the season, no matter what the circumstances may be.”
The Gamecocks are deep and have solid leadership at the outside hitter position. They have five returning players in Nadia Sefferovich, Yajaira Cadet, Cally Plummer, Mariana Branquinho and Sam Alban. Alban will also split her time at middle blocker while Branquinho will play opposite right side. Newcomers Sarah Morgan and Lynae Vanden Hull round out the OH positions. Vanden Hull will assist Branquinho at the opposite right side position, as well.
Plummer, a three-time All-SEC and two-time All-Region selection, led the team last year in kills (339), kills per game (3.68), service aces (50) and digs (256). USC will continue to look towards her leadership and skills to maintain a high level of competition.
“In addition to her leadership, Cally brings to the table a different look with her being a left-handed outside hitter,” said Coach Christopher.
Earning her first All-SEC selection last season, Cadet expects to continue with more of the same. Fourth on the team in kills per game, Cadet progressed through an off-season surgery and is ready for full-time action.
“Yajaira is a fast athlete that brings a wealth of experience. Her ability to contribute will be determined by how she can physically handle the training and length of the season,” said Christopher.
Another Gamecock who is coming off of surgery rehabilitation is Sefferovich. Sefferovich, who had shoulder surgery in the spring, played in 92 games last season and recorded 3.23 kills per game, second behind Plummer. Sefferovich earned second-team All-SEC honors last season and is expected to be in fine form for 2002.
“Nadia is an exceptional athlete that has all of the tools. She is a primary passer and a good defensive player,” said Christopher.
At the opposites/right side position, Branquinho and Vanden Hull are both big blockers and have various attacking options that will strengthen USC’s game plan.
Another position that is extremely strong for the Gamecocks is setter. Returning to the lineup is seasoned senior, Megan Hosp. Hosp earned first team All-SEC and All-Region honors in 2001. Joining Hosp is sophomore Amy Pratt who is expected to see more time on the court.
“We are very experienced with our setters,” said Christopher. “Amy had a great spring and is proving herself to be a floor leader.”
Leading the way for the middle blockers are Berna Dwyer and Sam Alban. Dwyer was a 2001 All-SEC second-team selection and although Alban is mainly used at the middle blocker position, she will also see time at outside hitter. Alban led the team in total blocks last season with 67.
“We are experienced in the middle, led by Berna and Sam. We will have four middles all with varying abilities,” said Christopher. “Sam is continuing to train on the outside and in the middle. She has a great mentality for the outside position.”
Sophomore Niece Curry and freshman Nicole Miller will round out the middle position.
“Niece is an explosive athlete that has a high ceiling. She had a great summer and worked hard to get into shape,” said Christopher. “Her hard work will pay off this season and I expect Niece to be a real force offensively.”
“Nicole is a young athlete that loves to compete,” said Christopher. “She will spend time developing behind the experience of Berna, Sam and Niece.”
A new addition to the collegiate game is the libero position. Used at the international level of competition, the libero is a designated back row player intended to be used as a ball-control specialist.
“I am glad to see the libero position come to the collegiate game. The libero brings a position to the floor that specializes in serve receive passing and defense,” said Christopher. “The libero will help keep balls in play and create more rallies. A good libero will be crucial to the success of a team.”
Playing at the libero positions for the Gamecocks will be sophomore Bridget White and freshman Amy Benson.
“Bridget saw considerable playing time last year and will be instrumental in our success defensively,” said Christopher. “Amy is a great addition and she will impact us defensively, as well.”