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

Nov. 25, 2009

Complete Release in PDF Format Get Acrobat Reader

COLUMBIA, S.C. – The South Carolina Gamecocks close out the 2009 season on Friday afternoon at No. 15 Florida. First serve for the Gamecocks’ final match is slated for 4 p.m. ET.

South Carolina will finish the year fifth in the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division and need a win to finish the year with an overall record at .500. The Gators are tied for second in the SEC East with a 21-5 overall record and a 15-4 league mark.

Rough Stretch At The End Of This Road
South Carolina finishes the season with four matches against top 25 RPI teams. The stretch started last Sunday against LSU, who’s the top rated team in the SEC at No. 12 currently. Kentucky is 21st, Tennessee is 19th and Florida ranks 16th. The Wildcats, Gators and Tigers all stand in the top 20 in the AVCA poll.

Defensive Minded
South Carolina has been outstanding defensively as a team, ranking 53rd in the country in digs as of Monday’s report and second in the SEC. 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 17 times in 2009, going 12-5 in those matches. Last season, the Gamecocks finished second in the league in digs per set, leaping up from fifth in 2007.

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 its 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. The Gamecocks went 3-7 at the facility in 2009 during SEC play, the first losing conference record at home since Kim Hudson’s final season in 2004, when the team went 2-6.

The Gamecocks nearly broke a six-year road losing streak in league play, going 4-6 last year. But that was a considerable improvement over 2003-07, when South Carolina won just nine road matches in 43 tries. The Garnet and Black are 2-7 on the road in league action this fall with Friday’s match left to play.

Sarah Cline Named To Academic All-America Second Team
While the season is not yet over, some awards have already been released. Senior Sarah Cline has two, making the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America second team after becoming SC’s first three-time ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District III honoree. She’s the first Academic All-American in 15 years for the Gamecocks, joining Lori Rowe (1986, 2nd) and Katie Gerst (1994, 3rd) as volleyball student-athletes to claim that honor.

More Awards For 2009 Gamecocks
Sarah Cline also claimed a weekly award this year, earning her first SEC Defensive Player of the Week certificate she took home in week three of the year. Classmate Ivana Kujundzic brought home the first award of the year when she garnered SEC Offensive Player of the Week status after the first weekend of play in the Big Orange Bash.

In the postseason awards, redshirt freshman Olivia Ryder picked up her second SEC Volleyball Community Service Team nod this week. The rest of the SEC’s yearly awards are announced next week.

Cline Looking To Cement 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. The first three-time ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District III selection by CoSIDA in program history and 2009 second-team ESPN The Magazine Academic All-American helped the squad to its second-place ranking in 2008’s final SEC defensive statistical rankings and a similar ranking with one match left in 2009.

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 22 times while adding seven 20+ dig matches. She jumped from 11th to second on the career digs chart, passing three people in the first match of the year. She needs two digs to pass Diane Denton for the program record, which she set in 1988. She’s 34 digs from tying for 11th on the SEC career list. Cline has already broken the rally-scoring era digs mark with 495 this season, and she’s 30 scoops from tying the all-time single-season mark of Denton’s 1987 season.

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 consecutive-sets played streak among current players 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 has continued a stretch of 14 years for Carolina to have at least one international student-athlete on the roster.

The senior outside hitter is the 11th Gamecock to record 1,000 career kills, entering the top 10 during the Mississippi match on Oct. 23. She ranks seventh in kills (1,133), ninth in career kills per set (2.91) and fifth in attacks (3,047). She’s also tied for 20th with 96 career aces and 19th with 823 career digs. Kujundzic is questionable for Friday’s match, as she’s missed the past four outings with a knee issue.

The Return Of The Giants
Production from the middle blockers had slacked off with the departure of All-SEC performer Belita Salters. But the last five weeks have been encouraging, as junior Megan Laughlin has stepped up as the top middle, and freshman Brandi Byers has emerged as a force. Laughlin has double-digit kills in eight of the last 11 matches, including a career-best 22 that came at Mississippi State. She’s led the team five times in the last nine matches.

Byers, who entered the lineup for good after the break at Auburn, has started nine of the last 10 contests, leading the team in blocks in six of those while recording 10 kills in the home win over the Auburn Tigers.

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 this season, South Carolina added a sweep of former system school Coastal Carolina and another win over South Carolina State, stretching the in-state win streak to nine matches. Last season, the Gamecocks went 4-0 against in-state schools, adding South Carolina State to the Big Orange Bash list from above. South Carolina will look to continue its dominance of the state next fall when Winthrop hosts its tournament.

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.

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, which 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.

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 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 mark 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 12 matches this season, including during each match of the Big Orange Bash and the Mizuno Invitational II. She now has 20 career double-doubles. She missed three matches with a lower leg injury, but she returned with a double-double at Alabama.

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 standing second the SEC in digs per set at 16.38. The squad also ranks fifth in kills and assists per set. Senior Sarah Cline ranks second in the SEC with her 4.67 digs per set, while classmate Ivana Kujundzic is third in kills per set (3.99) and fourth in aces (0.31).

Is It That Simple? The Last Two Years Say Yes
In 2008, the Gamecocks had a simple formula for winning: have a higher hitting percentage than their foe. The Garnet and Black went 21-0 when it out-hit the opposition. 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 14 times this season, losing just one of those matches. That one came against Alabama.

South Carolina In The National Stats
The Garnet and Black hangs its hat on its defense and for good reason. The squad stands 53rd in digs in the NCAA’s weekly statistical rankings that come out Monday afternoons. The team is also 79th in kills and 75th in assists. Individually, Ivana Kujundzic is among the nation’s top 60 in kills and points per set. The full list is in the PDF version of the notes linked above.

Scouting No. 15 Florida
The Gators stand at 21-5 overall and 15-4 in the SEC. While still good, the four losses in league outings are the most for Florida since 1990 prior to South Carolina (and Arkansas) joining. The year was 1990 when Florida last did not earn at least a share of the conference crown, a streak that’s been snapped at 18 this season, as LSU definitely and Kentucky possibly will claim the overall crown.

Florida is as strong as ever offensively, standing second in the league in hitting percentage, kills and assists. The Gators are third in aces, but they stand “just” fifth in digs and blocks.

Kelly Murphy is the biggest member of Florida’s offense, as she leads them in assists (6.45) and hitting percentage (.332) and stands third in kills per set (3.04). The sophomore, who has nine triple-doubles this season, is tied for second in digs (2.32) and stands fourth in blocks (0.61). She plays a combination of right side and setter, concentrating on the latter mostly in the win at No. 10 Kentucky last Sunday. Kristy Jaeckel and Colleen Ward are the outside hitters on whom to focus, with the duo leading the team in kills at 3.27 and 3.11 per set, respectively. Cassandra Anderson keys the block, averaging 1.26 per frame this season. She is the third-leading hitter at .321, but she averages just 1.23 kills. Brynja Rodgers is the second setter in this modified 6-2, making 5.43 assists a set. Elyse Cusack captains the back row and ranks fourth in the SEC with 4.58 digs per set.

Series History vs. The Gators
The Gamecocks have taken seven contests in the 48 meetings with Gators. However, Carolina is just 2-26 against Florida 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. In Gainesville, the Gamecocks are 2-20, wining the first two trips in 1984 and 1986. South Carolina last took a set at Florida in 2000, the only set won in the 20-match losing streak.