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Sept. 17, 2003

Columbia, S.C. –
South Carolina volleyball (4-5) returns to action this weekend as they host the Gamecock Invitational. USC opens tournament play on Thursday at 7 p.m. when they face No. 17 Santa Clara (5-4). Carolina continues on Friday with Duke (4-5) at 7 p.m. and on Saturday with George Washington (10-0) at 10 a.m. The Gamecocks are coming off of a two-match win streak including an upset victory over then-ranked No. 15 Notre Dame.

“This weekend’s tournament is another great opportunity for us to play some of the best teams in the country,” said head coach Kim Hudson Christopher. “Santa Clara is nationally ranked and has been a powerhouse program for several years.

The Broncos of Santa Clara are coming off of a three-match losing streak at the U.S. Bank/Arby’s Invitational at Lincoln, Neb. Santa Clara fell to No. 5 Nebraska, No. 10 Georgia Tech and No. 17 Michigan State. Their last win came back on Sept. 6 when they defeated Miami 3-2. Becky Potter leads the Broncos with an average of 3.97 kills per game and has 114 digs. This marks only the second meeting between the Gamecocks and the Broncos. Carolina won the first decision back in 2001 when USC swept Santa Clara 3-0.

“Santa Clara is experienced, well coached and athletic. It will be a true test for us to be competitive with Santa Clara to see if we can continue to improve and apply what we have learned thus far,” said Hudson Christopher.

The Duke Blue Devils lead the series against the Garnet and Black 8-6 but prior to the their last meeting in 2000, the two teams had not played against each other since 1989. Carolina has won the last three meetings, including the 3-0 victory in 2000. The Blue Devils enter the tournament with a two-match losing streak as they fell to Iowa and No. 25 Wisconsin last weekend. Duke is led by Tassay Rufai, a senior outside hitter who leads the team with 3.79 kills per game. Middle blocker Krista Dill leads the team in blocks with 58 and is averaging 1.71 blocks per game.

“Duke is year in and year out one of the top teams in the ACC and in the southeast. They have continued their winning tradition and we have a natural rivalry with Duke,” stated Hudson Christopher.

Carolina will face George Washington for the sixth time in history this weekend. The Gamecocks lead the close series 3-2 with USC staking victory in the last meeting back in 2000, 3-0. The Colonials are the only undefeated team in the tournament with a 10-0 record. Last weekend they defeated Rutgers and Georgetown 3-1. Ruth Lazzari and Sarah Hokom are the Colonials top leaders as they are hitting .294 and .325 respectively. Hokom leads the team in blocking as well.

“George Washington is having a great year so far. I am concerned about playing them because they are coming in with a good deal of confidence and they play relentless defense,” said Christopher. “Playing three good teams in such a short period of time will be a challenge for our young team. It will be important for us to limit our unforced errors and continue to work on communication during rallys.”

The tournament schedule is as follows:

Gamecock Invitational Schedule
Thur., Sept. 18
USC vs. Santa Clara, 7 p.m.

Fri., Sept. 19
Duke vs. Santa Clara, 10 a.m.
Santa Clara vs. George Washington, 5 p.m.
USC vs. Duke, 7 p.m.

Sat., Sept. 20
USC vs. George Washington, 10 a.m.
Duke vs. George Washington, 3 p.m.