Dec. 9, 2003
Columbia, S.C. – Despite completing the 2003 season on a down note, the South Carolina volleyball team has a bright future with the athleticism and talent that head coach Kim Christopher and her staff has put together. Although the young Gamecocks ended the season on a five-match losing streak, USC finished sixth in the SEC, posted a 12-18 overall record and a 6-10 SEC record that still produced some highlights deserving of recognition.
“I think you have to take into account that we only had one senior and one junior and our biggest issue was not having clear leadership at the top,” said Christopher. “I feel very strongly that we are an extremely talented group. We were just not very skilled and we lacked leadership this season.”
The most obvious honor for the program this season was the announcement of redshirt freshman Lynae Vanden Hull as SEC Co-Freshman of the Year, a first for Gamecock volleyball. Vanden Hull led the Gamecocks in kills with 314 and averaged 2.93 kills per game. In SEC matches she ranked among the conference’s top ten in hitting percentage and service aces.
Although USC has suffered its first losing season since 1993, this was also the toughest schedule the program has ever played. The Gamecocks faced seven ranked teams, including No. 1 Southern Cal, No. 8 Northern Iowa and third-ranked Florida twice. USC did record two Top 25 victories as they defeated then ranked No. 17 North Carolina and No. 15 Notre Dame. The Notre Dame victory was the first ever for USC over the Fighting Irish, while the win over the Gamecocks snapped a two-match losing streak to the Tar Heels.
Throughout the non-conference tournaments at the start of the season, USC had several players earn all-tournament honors. Sophomore Nicole Miller earned honors at the Holiday Inns of Greater Los Angeles Tournament, hosted by No. 1 Southern Cal. In the match against the Women of Troy, Miller recorded 16 kills, a career-high. Sophomore Lauren Ford was most comfortable at home as she garnered all-tournament selections at the Carolina Classic and the Gamecock Invitational. Vanden Hull also earned two berths as she was named to the Gamecock Invitational and the Shamrock Classic.
No school records were broken this year, but Vanden Hull came close when she recorded 27 kills, a career high, in the match against Kentucky. The Papillion, Neb. native was just one kill shy of tying the school record of 28. That was the most kills in a match by any Gamecock player since Kori Ermigarat had 26 in 1995.
Freshman setter Katelyn Panzau become only the fifth Gamecock to record 1,000 assists as a freshman. Upon entering the match against No. 3 Florida, Panzau needed exactly 32 assists to reach the heralded mark. The Belleville, Ill. native did just that and joined the ranks of some of Carolina’s finest setters: Megan Hosp, Ashley Edlund, Kelly Morrow and Jodi Thompson.
Coach Christopher and her staff will focus on the spring practices and conditioning workouts to assess the matters at hand, the future of the program.
“This spring we have to get our kids to understand our philosophy and our team policy and they have to buy into it. We have something at Carolina that we have never had before as far as the athletes go. Several of them are talented enough athletically to move us into a different era,” said Christopher. “It will be interesting to see if the mental toughness, the work ethic and the desire will follow suit.”