Skip to main content
Partner logo
Mobile Icon Link Mobile Icon Link Mobile Icon Link Gamecocks+

Oct. 6, 2009

Complete Release in PDF Format Get Acrobat Reader

COLUMBIA, S.C. – The Gamecocks close out a five-match homestand with a big one when they host No. 6 Florida on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in front of a national television audience on ESPNU. The match is a “Campus Connection” event, with South Carolina’s journalism students working as part of the crew. It’s also $1 admission and $1 hot dogs at the Volleyball Competition Facility. Then South Carolina closes out the first schedule gauntlet on Friday night with a showdown against defending SEC Western Division Champion LSU, with first serve in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center set for 7 p.m. CDT.

The Gators come into Columbia with an 11-2 mark after dropping their first SEC match of the season last Friday against now No. 10 Kentucky. The Tigers stand at 11-4 on the season and 5-1 in SEC play, downing Alabama and Mississippi State last weekend.

Defensive Minded
South Carolina has been outstanding defensively as a team, ranking 21st in the country in digs in Monday’s report. The squad claimed a 23-dig advantage in the win over Clemson, the largest margin of the season, while the team has won the digs battle in all but two matches (Arkansas and Tennessee) in 2009. Two Gamecocks, Sarah Cline and Hannah Lawing, are in the top 10 of the SEC in digs per set, the only teammates in the listing.

Last season, the Gamecocks finished second in the league in digs per set, leaping up from fifth in 2007. A lot of that credit went to Cline, who has been the libero most of the past two seasons, as well as Lawing and Ivana Kujundzic, who stood as two of the better passing hitters in the SEC.

Experience Back, Experience Packed
South Carolina returns five starters and its starting libero from the 2008 squad that finished with 21 wins, the first 20+ win season from a Gamecock club since 2002. While good, it is not far and above the best in the Southeastern Conference. While every SEC team lost at least one starter, there are five others that match the Gamecocks with five coming back. In fact, only one team, Mississippi, lists losing more than two starters. Both Florida and LSU list losing two starters from a year ago.

What We Lost
Overall, from the four letterwinners who did not return, the Gamecocks lost 30.3 percent of their kills, 31.6 percent of their total blocks and 21.9 percent of their digs. Nearly 70 percent of the kills and blocks are back, leading one to think that would be a lot. But that’s nothing compared to the 2008 squad, who returned 86 percent of its kills and 74 percent of its blocks, not to mention 94 percent in both assists and digs and 85 percent of its aces from the 2007 edition.

Gamecock Offense Survived Stretch Without Kujundzic
South Carolina holds a 10-5 record on the season, but they went just 3-3 while preseason All-SEC attacker Ivana Kujundzic was held out with an ankle injury. Offensively, the Gamecocks did not missed much without the senior, hitting just under their mark with her percentage-wise while actually getting more kills per set. The problem was defensively. The Gamecocks’ digs fell by over one per frame (17.57-16.41), and the blocking slipped by nearly a half-block a set (1.57-1.09). With those numbers going down, South Carolina’s foes piled up a better kills-per-set mark (11.25-13.05) and hitting percentage (.145-.228). Kujundzic returned to the court last weekend.

Friday Nights Not Good For Carolina; Will Wednesday Make A Difference?
Since Southeastern Conference play started three weeks ago, the Gamecocks have shown a pattern: less than stellar performance on Friday night followed by a much more spirited effort on Sunday afternoons. Since starting league action, the Gamecocks are 0-3 on Friday nights, including two home losses, while going 2-1 on Sunday afternoons, including two 3-0 wins and a five-set classic against No. 15 Kentucky. Is it the nighttime, or is it Fridays? Does it have something to do with the morning practices the Gamecocks run due to facility conflicts? More evidence will be produced this week with two night matches on tap for Wednesday and Friday. Of note, the Gamecocks went 5-0 in “night” matches (all matches that started after 4 p.m.) and 3-1 in matches earlier in the day during the non-conference portion of the schedule.

Back-To-Back Matches Against A Ranked Team? It’s Happened Before
According to the archives, the Gamecocks have face ranked teams in consecutive matches 11 times in history. The first came in 1991 as they faced a seventh-ranked LSU team in Baton Rouge before hosting No. 11 Florida. Both of those matches ended in defeat for South Carolina. In three of the previous five times the Gamecocks have played back-to-back ranked foes and four times overall, the Gamecocks have taken one of the two matches. The last time South Carolina beat a ranked team in this scenario was on Sept. 17, 2006, when the Gamecocks downed No. 6 Florida in four sets at the Volleyball Competition Facility. That match was shown on Sun Sports TV. Last year, a 25th-ranked Kentucky team beat South Carolina, 3-0, in Columbia before No. 8 Florida swept the Gamecocks in Gainesville.

Is It That Simple? It Was Last Year
In 2008, the Gamecocks had a simple forumla for winning: have a higher hitting percentage than their foe. The Garnet and Black went 21-0 when it out-hit the opposition. The Gamecocks’ worst performance in a win was at Arkansas, when the squad hit .182. Carolina also went 19-0 when it had fewer hitting errors and 18-1 when it had more assists and more kills than the other side.

The Gamecocks have won the hitting battle 10 times this season, losing just one of those matches. That one came against Alabama.

SEC East Holds Home Court Advantage
While playing on the road is always tough, it gets even rougher when traveling to an SEC Eastern Division team’s gym. In the league last year, the home team went 62-48 overall (.563), while in 2007 the home team won 64 percent of their matches in league play. But in the East, the home team won 80 percent of its matches (40-10), compared to the West’s 22-38 (.367) mark. South Carolina was right in the line with its East cohorts, going 8-2 at the Volleyball Competition Facility in 2008. They are 1-3 at the facility in 2009 after two weekends of home action.

The Gamecocks nearly broke a six-year losing streak in league play on the road, going 4-6. But that was a considerable improvement over 2003-07, when South Carolina won just nine road matches out of 43 tries. The Gamecocks went 1-1 on their first league trip of the year, falling at Arkansas in three before sweeping Ole Miss.

Gamecocks Good On TV At Home
South Carolina has taken its last four home TV contests televised by any outlet, with the streak starting on Nov. 12, 2006 against Tennessee. Overall, the Gamecocks are 12-9 when the big cameras come out, including the Sept. 16, 2006 win over sixth-ranked Florida. The complete listing of South Carolina’s televised games can be found in the PDF notes linked above.

Cline Looking For Her Place In History
Senior libero Sarah Cline has become the vocal leader on the court for the Gamecocks the past two years while also leading the team in digs. A two-time ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District III selection by CoSIDA, the senior will attempt to become the first three-time honoree from CoSIDA in program history while also helping the squad improve on its second-place ranking in 2008’s final SEC defensive statistical rankings.

The Rock Hill, S.C., product made the all-tournament team in each of the pre-conference season events, capturing the Gamecock Invitational’s most outstanding libero award as well. She’s recorded double-digit digs in every contest, leading South Carolina in the category 11 times while adding five 20+ dig matches. She jumped from 11th on the career digs chart to third, passing three people in the first match of the year. At the halfway point in the season, she has 270 digs. She needs 96 digs to tie Jodi Thompson for second all-time and 226 to tie for the program record. A “mere” 178 digs would put her in a tie for 13th on the SEC career list.

Gamecocks Claim South Carolina State Title Again
The Gamecocks won the “Palmetto State” title for the second-consecutive year, defeating Clemson, College of Charleston and Winthrop in the 19th-annual Big Orange Bash. And already this season, South Carolina added a sweep of former system school Coastal Carolina, stretching the in-state win streak to eight matches. Last season, the Gamecocks went 4-0 against in-state schools, adding South Carolina State to the Big Orange Bash list from above. The Garnet and Black look to make it nine when it returns last year’s match against the SCSU Bulldogs in November.

Lawing Breaks Out In Houston
After spending two years filling in as an attacker when injuries arose, Hannah Lawing has staked out a starting job as an outside hitter. During the first half of last season, she played exclusively on the back row before taking the job with her all-around play. She improved her kills-per-set average from 0.27 in the back to 2.30 while playing full rotations, finishing the year with a 1.30 mark. Her hitting percentage jumped from .049 as a freshman to .138 as a sophomore, including a .175 percentage during the final 15 matches of 2008 when pressed into full-court duty. The junior set a program high for the 25-point scoring era, posting 28 kills in the win over Harvard. That’s the most for a Gamecock since Shonda Cole’s 29 in her final collegiate match on Nov. 22, 2006. Those 28 kills are also the most for any player in the SEC this season.

Lawing has tallied double-doubles in 10 matches this season, including during each match of the Big Orange Bash and the Mizuno Invitational II. She now has 18 career double-doubles. The Marietta, Ga., native ranks seventh in the SEC in kills per set and 10th in digs per set, the only student-athlete in both.

Kujundzic Continuing International Successes At South Carolina
International student-athletes have often found success at South Carolina, and Ivana Kujundzic continues that tradition. The Subotica, Serbia, native, who was the squad’s only Preseason All-SEC selection, has led the Gamecocks in kills per set for two years running, joining Canadian Lori Rowe (1983-86) as the only non-American to top the squad in consecutive seasons. Kujundzic held the longest current consecutive-sets streak until an injury dropped her out of the lineup to start the third set against No. 23 Wichita State, ending the string at 233 sets. Kujundzic also continues a stretch of 14 years for Carolina to have at least one international on the roster.

The senior outside hitter is the 11th Gamecock to record 1,000 career kills, needing 75 kills to move into the top 10. She ranks 10th in career kills per set (2.84) and ninth in attacks (2,675). She added to her numbers last weekend with 39 kills in the matches against Tennessee and No. 15 Kentucky.

South Carolina In The SEC Stats
A couple of the Gamecocks stand out in the Southeastern Conference statistical rankings. Monday’s update shows the Garnet and Black leading the SEC in digs per set at 16.92. The squad also ranks third in both assists and kills per set. Senior Sarah Cline leads the SEC with her 4.58 digs-per-set average, while classmate Ivana Kujundzic leads the league in kills per set (4.28). Junior Hannah Lawing appears in both the kills and digs categories, the only non-defensive specialist to stand in the top 10 in digs. The complete chart is in the PDF version of the notes.

Welcoming Friends To Columbia
Carolina freshman Brandi Byers and Florida freshman Mariah Woodson played club together with the A5 group from the Atlanta, Ga., area.

Denson-Dorman In A Long Line Of Award-Winning Setters
Senior setter Bridget Denson-Dorman came to South Carolina after claiming two All-BIG EAST certificates during her time at Connecticut. Last season, she added an AVCA All-South Region Honorable Mention award to her case after helping guide the Gamecock offense to its highest hitting percentage since 2002. The Golden Valley, Minn., native joined Julie Morrison, Tammy Correll, Ashley Edlund and Megan Hosp as award-winning setters wearing the Garnet and Black. While she’d like to become the first Gamecock setter since Hosp to claim a spot on the All-SEC team, a more important goal for the senior is earning a bid into the NCAA Tournament, something she hasn’t accomplished at either stop in her collegiate career.

The senior had one of her best matches in the Garnet and Black against Mississippi State, dishing out 42 assists on 86 attempts in the victory. She added six kills and seven digs against the Bulldogs as well.

It Was A Different Kind Of Winning Streak, But It’s Done
Last season, the Gamecocks won 10 in a row during one stretch. This season, they tied a program record, winning 16 non-conference regular-season matches in a row, tying the mark set from 2000 to 2002. The most recent streak began on Aug. 29, 2008 and continued until Sat., Sept. 12, 2009 when No. 23 Wichita State picked off the Gamecocks.

Scouting Florida
The Gators enter Wednesday’s match with an 11-2 mark and a No. 6 national ranking. The perrenial SEC favorite, the Gators stand in the top three in the SEC in hitting percentage, assists, kills and opponent hitting percentage. But Florida is not dominating at the net as one would expect, as the team stands eighth in blocks in the SEC. They also are eighth in service aces and 10th in digs. The Gators play a high-risk, high-reward serving game, averaging 1.18 aces per set while having more than double the service errors than aces.

Colleen Ward is the Gators’ top attacker with 3.37 kills per set. Kristy Jaeckel stands second at 3.00, while the versatile Kelly Murphy is third at 2.94. Murphy also leads Florida with a 6.29 assists-per-set mark. Brynja Rodgers shares the setting duties with Murphy, sending out 5.06 assists per set. Cassandra Anderson is the Gators’ second-leading hitter by percentage at .319 and leads the club in blocks at 1.12. Libero Elyse Cusack leads the Gators with a 4.00 digs-per-frame average. The senior also averages 1.41 assists per set from her back-row spot.

Series History vs. The Gators
Few teams in the SEC have had even limited success against Florida, but South Carolina is one that can claim some. The Gamecocks have taken seven contests in the 47 meetings, and just four other conference squads can match that number of wins over the league’s dominate program. However, Carolina is just 2-25 against the Gators since joining the SEC, picking up wins in 1994 and 2006, both at home. That triumph on Sept. 17, 2006 was the program’s eighth win all-time against a ranked foe, as Florida stood sixth in the national poll at that time.

Scouting LSU
The Tigers enter the week at 11-4 on the season with three of those losses coming to nationally-ranked teams. Just outside of the top 25, LSU leads the SEC West at 5-1 this year. The team is well-rounded, standing in the top four in every SEC statistical category except for opponent hitting percentage. The blocking game has been a calling card for the Tigers recently, as they stand second in the league at 2.62 per set. The service game has been strong for LSU as well, averaging 1.48 per frame to stand second in that category as well.

Brittnee Cooper and Marina Skender are the top offensive threats, with the duo averaging over 6.5 kills per frame between them. Cooper also hits at .385, the top mark in the league, while her 1.27 blocks per set stands second in the SEC. Skender is second on the team in kills and digs (2.50 dps), third in hitting percentage (.229), and stands third in the league with 0.39 aces per set. Michele Williams is the other big blocker, ranking seventh in the league at 1.08 per set. She also is third on the team with 2.29 kills per game. Sam Dabbs has guided the offense to a .252 hitting percentage, while she’s averages 1.16 kills per set and 10.58 assists per set from the setter spot. Lauren Waclawczyk has been the libero, averaging 3.36 digs per set.

Series History vs. The Tigers
The LSU Tigers and Carolina Gamecocks have met just 24 times previously in volleyball, the second-least amount of matches for South Carolina against an SEC opponent (one more than against Arkansas). The series is tied, 12-12, as the squads have split the last two season series. All time in Baton Rouge, the teams have each won six meetings.

South Carolina In The National Stats
The Garnet and Black hangs its hat on its defense and for good reason. The squad stands 21st in the NCAA’s weekly statistical rankings that come out late on Monday afternoons. The team also is in the top 50 in two offensive categories: kills and assists. Individually, only Sarah Cline remains among the top 75 in any category after Ivana Kujundzic fell out due to missing five matches. The full list is in the PDF version of the notes.

Legacy Fulfilled With Addition Of Glover
Four new players grace the 2009 roster for South Carolina volleyball, with one of those following in the footsteps of her mother. Christina Glover, the 2007 and 2008 South Carolina 4A State Player of the Year, is the daughter of Alexis Homer Glover, who played during the AIAW days of the program (lettering in 1978-80). With the spotty records prior to 1985, no one is sure if Christina is the first “legacy” player in Gamecock history. If there are any alumnae who have had their daughter come through the program, they are urged to contact Koby Padgett at or via the phone number listed on page two of these notes.

Glover recorded her best outing in the Alabama match since entering the rotation. Against the Crimson Tide, Glover hit .381 while recording 10 kills, her best in her six-match career. She played briefly last weekend against Tennessee and Kentucky.

Ending One Reign
When people across the country think of Southeastern Conference volleyball, the national media and fans always think of Florida, for good reason. The Gators have won a share of every conference title since the league’s expansion in 1991. In some statistical categories, they have ruled as well. But last season, South Carolina ended the longest of the Gators’ stat reigns, topping Florida in overall hitting percentage with a .259 mark, snapping the Gators’ nine-year streak. Last year’s Gamecock squad also finished first in assists and kills per set and second in digs per set.

If Florida’s to be kept out of the top spot this season, the Gamecocks are less likely to be the team to top them. The Gamecocks stand eighth at the halfway point in the season.