Sept. 3, 2011
by Koby Padgett
Assistant Media Relations Director
COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina swept its way past UNC Asheville (3-4), 25-16, 25-14, 25-10, to claim the Gamecock Invitational title on Saturday night at the Volleyball Competition Facility. The Gamecocks move to 7-0 under first-year head coach Scott Swanson, just the fourth time South Carolina has been 7-0 in volleyball since entering the Southeastern Conference in 1991, joining the 1992, 1995 and 2009 teams with that record.
Freshman outside hitter Bethanie Thomas claimed tournament MVP honors after hitting .391 on the weekend with a 3.15 kills and 3.00 digs average. Junior setter Taylor Bruns (11.38 assists per set, 18 kills) and sophomore middle blocker Frankie Vain (2.31 kills per set, .519 hitting percentage) joined her on the all-tournament team. UNC Asheville’s Cindi Miller, Elon’s Caroline Lemke and Davidson’s Caroline Brown also made the all-tournament team.
Against UNC Asheville, sophomore outside hitter Juliette ThÃƒÂ©venin led the way with 10 kills and nine assists, while Thomas added seven kills and a match-high 12 digs. Sophomore libero Paige Wheeler added 10 digs. Senior middle blocker Teresa Stenlund hit .455, tied for best among attackers for the Gamecocks, with six kills while posting eight blocks, a season best. Miller led the Bulldogs with 11 kills and 11 digs, while Alex Stewart added 10 digs.
ThÃƒÂ©venin led a balanced Gamecock attack to a first-set win, 25-16, posting four kills in the frame. A kill from the sophomore gave South Carolina a 10-9 lead, one they would never relinquish, but three-consecutive aces by Vain gave the Gamecocks some distance from the Bulldogs. From there, the Bulldogs would only put together back-to-back points once the rest of the frame. A series of kills from Vain, freshman outside hitter Hanna Forst and ThÃƒÂ©venin ended it. Thomas and Forst also had three kills in the set, while Thomas contributed six digs.
South Carolina again worked well on Vain’s serving to start pulling away in the second. A three-point run on her serve gave the Gamecocks a 12-7 lead. Two more three-point skeins stretched the lead out to 19-11, with ThÃƒÂ©venin posting two kills in the first of those. Carolina closed out the frame at 25-14 with four-consecutive points, getting kills from redshirt freshman Cara Howley and ThÃƒÂ©venin, a solo block from Vain and a kill from freshman setter Lexie Pawlik. ThÃƒÂ©venin had five more kills in the set, while Stenlund posted two kills among her four points. The Gamecocks held UNC Asheville to a -.038 hitting percentage in the second.
After a Gamecock attack error started the third set, South Carolina ran away from UNC Asheville with a seven-point stand on Bruns’ serve that included consecutive Thomas kills. UNC Asheville could not get a run going against the Gamecock defense, which posted 17 digs and three blocks in the frame. Stenlund did most of the work in a five-point run that made it 19-8 with a kill, a solo block and a block assist. A five-point run ended it at 25-10, with Thomas posting a kill and the final two aces and Pawlik getting credit for two kills. Thomas made four kills in all in the third, not making an error on seven swings, leading the Gamecocks to a .538 mark in the frame. Howley also had three kills without an error in the frame.
South Carolina posted season bests in aces (7) and blocks (9), dominating those two categories while winning them all against UNC Asheville.
The Gamecocks close out their 2011 non-conference schedule next weekend in the Carolina Challenge, hosted by the College of Charleston, where South Carolina will face in-state rivals Clemson, the host Cougars and Winthrop during the two-day event at TD Arena.