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Sept. 30, 2010

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Dig Pink Feature

COLUMBIA, S.C. – The Gamecocks close out a four-match homestand this weekend against Arkansas and LSU at the Volleyball Competition Facility. Friday’s match against the Razorbacks serves as this season’s Dig Pink match and begins at 7 p.m. Donations will be taken at the match, and admission is $1 for everyone. Sunday’s match features South Carolina against No. 16 LSU, who enters the weekend undefeated, with first serve set for 1:30 p.m. Sunday’s match

Raising Money to Combat Breast Cancer
For the fourth consecutive year, the Gamecocks host a breast cancer awareness match. This season dubbed “Dig Pink,” funds raised through online and mail donations will benefit the Side-Out Foundation. The Gamecocks have gotten a boost on the court from these matches, downing Tennessee the first two years in 2007 and 2008 before the Lady Vols got one back in 2009.

Cancer Affects Almost Everyone
Four Gamecocks have been affected by breast cancer in their families, with Taylor Bruns, Lindsey Craft, Christina Glover and Megan Laughlin all having seen loved ones (grandmothers or mothers) suffer with the disease. Also, Gamecock head coach Ben Somera has seen his mother and aunt both lost to breast cancer. When spread to all cancers, 15 of the 17 Gamecocks have seen someone in their family affected by the disease.

I Said O . . . Olivia Ryder
After missing most of her senior season in high school and her true freshman year, redshirt sophomore Olivia Ryder has started showing what made her a top recruit. The Detroit area outside hitter posted career bests in kills (10), attempts (25) and hitting percentage (.320) when she came in against No. 18 Tennessee. She now leads the team in hitting percentage (.307) and ranks second on the team in SEC play with a 2.27 kills average.

Lawing Takes Over as (Back-row) Leader with Resounding Performance
Senior Hannah Lawing spent time both as a back-row specialist and as a full-rotation player during her first three years. This year, the Marietta, Ga., product has played exclusively at libero, and so far she’s been great. At the State Farm Illini Classic, Lawing dug 5.91 balls per set, nearly 2.5 more than the next closest person. For her efforts, she claimed a spot on the all-tournament team while also earning the SEC Defensive Player of the Week award for the second time in her career.

Lawing continued her great work through the pre-conference schedule, claiming all-tourney honors again at the Carolina Challenge and Most Outstanding Libero accolades at the Gamecock Invitational. Currently, she leads the SEC in digs both overall and in conference matches only.

South Carolina in the SEC Stats
A couple of Gamecocks stand out in the Southeastern Conference statistical rankings. Wednesday’s update shows the Garnet and Black standing third the SEC in digs per set at 15.36.

Senior Hannah Lawing leads the SEC with her 5.32 digs per set, while freshman Juliette Thévenin is in the top 10 in two categories, ranking fifth with 3.61 kills per frame and 10th with 0.28 service aces per set. The full list is in the PDF version of the notes.

Gamecocks Struggle in Early Going
The beginning slate for South Carolina Volleyball in 2010 was known to be tough, but no one could have predicted this start. The Gamecocks entered SEC play with a 2-9 record, but the losses have come against quality opposition. Six teams (Illinois, Middle Tennessee, Clemson, Lipscomb, Tennessee and Kentucky) made appearances in the 2009 NCAA Tournament. Four (Middle Tennessee, College of Charleston, Lipscomb and Tennessee) were their respective league’s pick to win at least a division title. And three (Illinois, Kentucky and Tennessee) were in the AVCA poll when South Carolina challenged them. This weekend adds another tough task, when defending SEC champion LSU comes to Columbia.

Juliette Thévenin Leading the Offense
Freshman Juliette Thévenin leads the Gamecocks in kills per set and stands third in hitting percentage. Despite missing the first weekend of the year, she has led the team in kills six times, the most on the squad. If she continues to lead the team in kills, she would be just the fifth freshman since 1983 to accomplish that feat. Thévenin would join Lori Rowe, Cally Plummer, Berna Dwyer and Lynae Vanden Hull in that distinction.

Stenlund Stuffing
Junior middle blocker Teresa Stenlund had one of the best matches of her career defensively against Lipscomb. The 6-2 California native blocked a career-best seven balls during the contest, including five solo stuffs. That’s the most solo blocks for a Gamecock since Ben Somera joined South Carolina in 2005. That total alone matches what Stenlund had done in her previous two seasons at South Carolina. She also posted six blocks in the win over The Citadel and is second among active rotation players with a 0.55 blocks average.

Scouting Arkansas
The Razorbacks come to the Volleyball Competition Facility with an 8-7 overall record and a 2-2 mark in SEC play. The Hogs have not been great with their passing and defense, giving up the second-most aces in the league while standing last in digs per set. Opponents this year have hit .219 against Arkansas, 10th in the SEC. The Razorbacks have been fair in blocks and service aces, standing sixth in both categories.

Jasmine Norton, last season’s SEC Freshman of the Year, once again paces the Hogs’ offense with 3.89 kills per set. She also stands second on the team with 2.00 digs per frame. Kelli Stipanovich is second in kills (2.14) and hitting percentage among those averaging over a kill per set. Cassie Clarke guides the offense, dishing out 8.96 assists per set. When utilizing the 6-2, Raymariely Santos serves as the second setter. Janeliss Torres currently leads the team with 1.26 blocks per set.

Series History vs. the Razorbacks
For South Carolina, the least-played conference opponent is Arkansas, for a good reason, too. The Razorbacks have taken 16 of the 25 matches all-time. The Razorbacks swept the season series last year and hold a 6-5 advantage in matches in Columbia.

Scouting LSU
Entering Friday’s match at No. 2 Florida undefeated, the Tigers have run roughshod over their SEC foes thus far, dropping just one set to Auburn. LSU ranks first in the SEC in hitting percentage, kills, assists and opponent hitting percentage and second in digs and service aces. The final category is blocks, where the Tigers are eighth. The most impressive stat may be the opponent hitting percentage, as foes have been held to a .148 mark this season.

Angela Bensend has put herself into the discussion for SEC Player of the Year, leading the SEC with a 4.56 kills average while putting up 3.12 digs per frame. Michele Williams leads the Tigers in hitting percentage (.362) and blocks (1.00 per set) while ranking second with 3.33 kills per frame. Brittney Johnson, after serving as a hitter the past two seasons, leads the SEC in assists at 10.98 per period while also hoisting 2.59 digs per set. She also averages 1.43 kills per frame. The Tigers’ Lauren Waclawczyk tops the squad and stands fifth in the SEC with 4.14 digs per set.

Series History vs. the Tigers
In 26 previous volleyball meetings, the second-least amount of matches for South Carolina against an SEC opponent (one more than against Arkansas), LSU holds a slim 14-12 advantage over the Gamecocks. The Tigers swept last year’s series, including a 3-0 win on Senior Day 2009 at the Volleyball Competition Facility. The teams have split the previous 12 meetings in South Carolina’s capital city.

South Carolina in the National Stats
In this week’s NCAA’s statistical rankings, Hannah Lawing stands in the top 25 in digs, while Taylor Bruns and Juliette Thévenin are ranked in assists and kills, respectively. The full list is in the PDF version of the notes.

Howley Out for the Year
A promising rookie season was cut short, as freshman Cara Howley injured her knee at Tennessee and will undergo season-ending surgery soon. The outside hitter from the greater Dallas area came down awkwardly from an attack, and the resulting MRI showed a torn ACL in her left knee. Howley had led the team twice in kills and stood third in both kills per set and hitting percentage. She also topped regular rotation players in blocks at the time of the injury.

Glover Shows Promise in Illinois
After playing in spurts as a freshman, Christina Glover claimed one of the starting outside hitter spots to begin 2010. And she showed a bit of her improvement in the first weekend, ranking second on the team with a 2.45 kills average while hitting .148. Her 2.64 digs per set stood third on the team, and she posted her first career double-double with 15 kills and 16 digs in the match against BYU. She may be starting again in full rotation, depending on the Gamecocks’ lineup.

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). Christina is believed to be the first “legacy” player in Gamecock history.

Looking for Some Help
South Carolina has made a mark with its serve reception and passing numbers in previous seasons. This season, senior libero Hannah Lawing is posting gaudy numbers, but there’s not much help. She’s the only Gamecock who averages more than two digs a set. There are two options for help for Lawing. Freshmen Paige Wheeler and Lindsey Craft could continue to fight for time and serve as defensive specialists, or the Gamecocks could use their setters in the 6-2 in defensive roles while also getting better passing from outside hitters Christina Glover and Juliette Thévenin.

This Is Not Normal
The Gamecocks have been in a different position than they’ve been in recently. In 2008 and 2009, the team posted more digs than their foes in 60 percent of the matches (36 of 60), going 27-9 in those matches. This season, South Carolina has won the digs war just four times while tying once, owning a 3-2 record in those four matches.

Is It That Simple?
In 2008 and 2009, the Gamecocks had a simple formula for winning: have a higher hitting percentage than their foe. South Carolina owns a 27-1 mark when it out-hits the opposition since the start of 2008. That includes a 3-0 record in 2010 when winning the hitting percentage battle.

Lots of New Faces, But We’ve Been There Before
The Gamecocks started 2010 with one of the youngest teams in the country. There are nine true freshmen on the roster, tying for the most among all NCAA Division I teams. But it’s not new for head coach Ben Somera to have such a young roster. In his first year in 2007, eight true freshmen were on the team, with a redshirt freshman joining that group. Three of those remain on this team as seniors. As for this year’s rookie class, seven have seen court time, with five drawing at least one start.

Not Quite as Young as 2007
South Carolina is one of the youngest teams in the country, as the nine freshmen on the roster tie for the most in the country in NCAA Division I. That doesn’t mean they are being relied upon as much as it seems. In similar circumstances back in 2007, when nine freshmen (one of those being a redshirt) were on the roster, the team drew 86 starts out of the group, or one less than half in the six rotation spots in 29 matches. Also, the 2007 group played in 463 sets combined in 106 frames. This season, the freshmen have compiled 30 starts in 13 matches and played in 176 sets thus far out of 47 on the season.

Roster Filled from All Over
Out of 17 players on South Carolina’s 2010 roster, a mere handful come from the same states. Three each hail from South Carolina and Georgia, while two come from Illinois. The rest come from states as far away as California, Michigan and Maryland. One even comes from Belgium, making this the 15th-consecutive season at least one Gamecock hailed from a different country.

You Never Know What You’ll Hear
The Gamecocks have people who can speak in many different tongues. Players Teresa Stenlund and Juliette Thévenin both list four languages in their grasp, while new staff members (and wife-and-husband) Michelle Collier and Rafael Silva both can speak three. If the Silva’s little girl, Tais, picked up all the languages one might hear from those four, she would be working on seven languages (Dutch, English, French, German, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish).