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Aug. 26, 2010

by Koby Padgett
Assistant Media Relations Director

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – The South Carolina volleyball team starts its 2010 campaign at the State Farm Illini Classic, hosted by the University of Illinois at Huff Hall. The Gamecocks will match up against 2009 NCAA Tournament teams Middle Tennessee and Illinois in the first two matches before closing out the event against Mountain West foe BYU.

The Gamecocks and Blue Raiders square off at 4:30 p.m. CDT on Friday. For fans coming to Champaign for that contest, the free parking normally available at Huff Hall will not be open until 5 p.m., so event staff encourages you to park at meters in the area to start the day. Saturday begins for South Carolina at 10 a.m. CDT against host and sixth-ranked Illinois before closing out the stay at 4:30 p.m. against the Cougars.

The Gamecocks have a young team, with the nine freshmen on the roster tying five other schools for the most in NCAA Division I this year. Seven made the trip to Illinois for the weekend and will be counted on to provide an immediate impact on the court. But South Carolina went through this three years ago. Seniors Jordan Bradosky, Megan Laughlin and Hannah Lawing can provide the veteran leadership that was not around during their rookie year when there were no seniors.

The trip sends two Gamecocks back to their home state, as Laughlin and sophomore Taylor Bruns are both Illinois natives. Also playing close to home is freshman Frankie Vain, who is from St. Louis, Mo., just three hours from Champaign.

Middle Tennessee has played in four-straight NCAA Tournaments and hopes to make it five this season. Head coach Matt Peck’s squad lost its libero and three starters off last year’s squad, but Izabela Kozon and Stacy Oladinni return after ranking second and third on the squad in kills per set. The Blue Raiders will start a new setter in 2010.

The Fighting Illini have nine letterwinners and five starters returning from a squad that played in the regional semifinals in the 2009 NCAA Tournament. Also added to the mix is former Florida starter Colleen Ward, who moved back closer to her Naperville, Ill., home. Coach Kevin Hambly, whose squad is tied for sixth in the preseason American Volleyball Coaches Association rankings, saw his team go 26-6 in his first season and looks to build upon that success. That includes a 14-1 record at home in Huff Hall.

Brigham Young University returns five starters from a team that went 15-14 in Shay Goulding’s second season. Christie Carpenter and Christina Measom will be looked upon to provide the offense for the Cougars, who lost their top attacker and starting libero from a year ago.

South Carolina lost its only previous meeting to Illinois on Sept. 5, 1986 in the Central Florida Tournament in Orlando, Fla. The Gamecocks face Middle Tennessee and BYU for the first time in volleyball this weekend.

Gametracker live stats are available for all matches, and Illinois is providing live video of every match of the tournament at its website,