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Dec. 19, 2003

Columbia, S.C. – Now that the 2003 volleyball season and fall semester is behind them, the South Carolina volleyball team members will go their separate ways for the holiday season. All will join family and friends and reflect on their experiences during the past year or so. Some will travel hundreds of miles to snowy winter city scenes, while others will stay close and have a simple relaxing break. A good time is sure to be had by all and like each player has their own individual personality, each one has their own special way they celebrate the holidays with their families and friends.

Sophomores Sarah Morgan and Amy Benson’s families both take trips during the break. The Morgan’s are planning a ski trip but don’t ask Sarah for directions or for the exact location.

“We are going on a ski trip with some of my other relatives but I don’t know where we are exactly going. They don’t tell me much other then when to be ready,” said Morgan playfully.

Since Sarah hails from Pennsylvania, maybe they will go somewhere along the east coast.

The Benson’s will gather in Crystal Lake, a suburb of Chicago, and have a huge dinner with her mom’s side of the family.

“We have a huge dinner and then for the family presents we have a big grab bag game with most of the adults while all of the kids receive presents,” said Benson. “We usually go on a family trip before the younger kids have to go back to school. I am not sure where we are headed this year but previous trips have been to Colorado, Puerto Vallarta, Jamaica, Cancun and Florida.”

The question now is how does someone make reservations for the Benson Christmas?

The majority of the team will stay close to their hometowns. Nicole Miller will return to Stockton, Calif. where her family will have a small Christmas party and she will visit her grandmother, aunts, uncles and cousins in San Francisco. Right side blocker Lynae Vanden Hull will weather the snow in Papillion, Neb. and spend time with family and friends. On Christmas Day, she and her family will head to her grandparents house in Iowa.

Sophomore Lauren Ford likes to show off her non-athletic talent of cooking when she is home for the holidays. Ford likes to cook for her parents and their three foster children, Daniel (2), Aaron (6) and Javar (8). When asked what her specialty is, she claims she makes a delicious peach cobbler. The Indianapolis native also hopes to find a holiday job, like gift-wrapping, while she is home for the break.

Freshmen Shonda Cole and Crystal Johnson are the two players that will have to travel the least for the holiday season. Cole is from Kings Mountain, N.C. and Johnson hails from Camden, S.C. Both are looking forward to spending time with family and friends and eating home cooked meals. Cole and her family have a dinner party on Christmas Eve and on New Year’s it is tradition that her family attends church and eat the traditional Black eyed peas, collard greens and all of the other “food that is suppose to bring you money in the future”. Johnson plans on visiting her mother’s family in Sumter and eating mac and cheese and sweet potato pie.

Canadian Lexi Thomson will return to Toronto and celebrate with her family. The big to do in Toronto happens on New Year’s Eve when the community gathers at Mel Lastman’s Square to watch the ball drop. While Thomson’s other foreign teammate Iris Santos will head to New York City to visit her aunts and cousins for the break instead of traveling to the Dominican Republic.

While the time off is much deserved for the players, it goes without saying that the Gamecock staff needs a break as well. Head volleyball trainer Tara Lein plans to travel back to New Jersey to visit her parents and grandparents.

“We will celebrate the Lein Christmas Eve on Dec. 20 which is filled with laughter, corny jokes and this year a little bit of sadness due to the loss of my grandmother,” said Lein. “We will also go into NYC to see a Broadway show, see the Christmas decorations and shows and eat great food, especially the homecooked Italian food!”

One family that will definitely have a celebratory holiday season is that of freshman setter Katelyn Panzau. Katelyn’s older sister Sarah was in a near fatal car accident in August and has made a miraculous recovery. This year for Christmas, the Panzau’s plan on throwing a big christmas party for their friends and family.

“We are just so excited to be together this Christmas. We realize it could have been very different,” expressed Katelyn. “We will continue with our tradition of visiting my aunt’s house on Christmas Eve, eat and open gifts. Then we will have our own intimate family Christmas on Christmas morning. It will be very nice.”