Sept. 22, 2011
COLUMBIA, S.C. – After a tough five-set match that went against the Gamecocks, South Carolina opens the home portion of its SEC schedule this weekend with tough contests against Tennessee and Kentucky. Friday’s match against the Lady Vols starts at 7 p.m. in the Volleyball Competition Facility, while Sunday’s first serve versus the Wildcats is slated for 1:30 p.m. Gametracker live stats and a free video stream will be provided at GamecocksOnline.com.
Promotions vs. Tennessee, Fri., Sept. 23, 7 p.m.
– Student Night – Free pizza for the first 100 students & double Student Rewards points
– Garnet, Black, & Green Night – 100 fans receive free recyclable grocery bags
– Parents Weekend – With badge, parents get $1 admission
– Facebook Friday – Show a coupon from the Volleyball fan page for a prize
Promotions vs. Kentucky, Sun., Sept. 25, 1:30 p.m.
– $1 admission with Sept. 24 Vanderbilt football ticket stub
– Public Service Appreciation Day
– Retirement & Grandparent Day
– Parents Weekend – With badge, parents get $1 admission
– Post-match autographs
– Twitterific Sunday – Mention @GamecockVolley on gameday for a prize
South Carolina Among Nation’s Best
Just past the one-third mark in the season, the Gamecocks are among the nation’s best in a few stat categories. The team dropped a spot, now ranking second in the country in digs (19.15). Offensively, South Carolina is eighth in both kills (14.69) and assists (13.72) and 27th in hitting (.267). The full stats breakdown for the Gamecocks come on page seven of the notes.
700 And Counting
In the 39th year of sponsoring volleyball, South Carolina has been to seven NCAA Tournament and posted 17 20-win seasons in history. On Sat., Sept. 10, the Gamecocks tallied the 700th win in program history, dispatching College of Charleston in five for the win. Not content there, the Gamecocks started the climb to the next double-round number with a sweep of Winthrop. South Carolina is the sixth team in the SEC to compile 700 wins in program history, following Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, and Tennessee.
All About SEC (Home) Openers
Heading into Friday’s Southeastern Conference home opener in South Carolina’s 21st season in the league, the Gamecocks have posted a 12-8 in the previous home league lidlifters. The last SEC home-opening win came in 2008, a sweep of LSU. This will be the first time Tennessee will be the first home foe for South Carolina since it joined the SEC.
A Decade Since This Feat
South Carolina was the last team to take a defeat in 2011, matching a feat last done in 2001. That team started 6-0 before falling in their first match of conference play against No. 10 Florida in a five-set thriller. That season was the middle of a three-season run of NCAA appearances for the Gamecocks. It was also the first season of rally scoring in NCAA volleyball.
Wheeler Posting Gaudy Numbers
Sophomore Paige Wheeler came into the season fighting to be the one to fill the huge shoes of Hannah Lawing and, before her, Sarah Cline in the libero role. So far, she played well, leading the team and ranking second in the SEC with 4.74 digs per set. The sophomore earned all-tournament team honors at the College of Charleston Invitational, averaging five digs per set during the event. She posted the third 30+ dig contest in the SEC this season with 31 in the win over College of Charleston.
During the second week of play in the Gamecock Invitational, she out-dug the SEC’s Defensive Player of the Week, Kentucky’s Stephanie Klefot. The Wildcats’ back-row specialist totaled 63 digs, a 5.00 average, while Wheeler tallied 67 digs, good for a 5.15 average. The Gamecocks’ top digger, Wheeler tied for third on the four-set match charts with 28 digs in the Elon win. Also, she landed four aces during the Gamecock Invitational.
The Improvement Is Easy to See
South Carolina has already surpassed its win total from 2010 before starting SEC play. To put that in perspective, the Gamecocks did not win their seventh match of the season until the 27th match last season on Nov. 13, 79 days into the season. They did not win their first match of the year until Sept. 10, which was the third weekend of play. The 2011 edition won its first seven matches inside the first eight days of the schedule.
Stenlund Stands Strong as Lone Senior
The only senior on this year’s squad, Teresa Stenlund is providing a steady presence in the middle. She leads the team and is sixth in the SEC in hitting (.361), while she ranks second on the team in kills (2.40 per set). Her presence at the net has been bigger this year as well, posting 0.93 blocks per set.
Stenlund has tended to save her best for the home tournament. Last season, Stenlund tied a 27-year-old record with five solo blocks in the three-set affair against Lipscomb during the Gamecock Invitational. During this year’s event, she hit .393 and averaged 1.45 blocks per set, tops on the team.
Once Again, South Carolina Among the Youngest
After tying for the nation’s lead with nine freshmen on the roster last year, the Gamecocks are still among one of the youngest teams in the country. According to data compiled by Brian Wolff at Buffalo, the 12 underclassmen (freshmen and sophomores) rank eighth in the country in number. By percentage of roster members, the Gamecocks’ 75 percent mark stands sixth in the country. A pair of historically-strong programs also make the list, with Penn State and Hawaii also making the top 10 in both.
Carolina Relying on Rookies Early in 2011
South Carolina is a young team, as you likely read above. Two of the freshmen, outside hitters Hanna Forst and Bethanie Thomas, have latched onto starting roles already. Thomas stands third on the team with her 2.36 kills average and a 3.18 digs average. Forst ranks fifth on the team in kills per set (2.15) and digs per set (2.41). They join three sophomores, a junior and a senior in the typical rotation.
Belgian Sensation Picking up Where She Left Off
Juliette ThÃƒÂ©venin started 2011 much as she finished 2010, when she earned SEC All-Freshman Team honors and became the fifth freshman since 1983 to lead the Gamecocks in kills, joining Lori Rowe, Cally Plummer, Berna Dwyer and Lynae Vanden Hull with that distinction.
ThÃƒÂ©venin earned her first SEC Offensive Player of the Week award after the opening weekend of play when she averaged 4.80 kills and 4.90 digs per match during the Temple Invitational. The sophomore also claimed tourney MVP and most valuable attacker honors at the event. She currently ranks fourth in the SEC in kills and points and fifth in the league in digs.
Taylor Bruns Guides Offense in Impressive Start
Junior setter Taylor Bruns twice earned all-tournament team accolades in 2011, leading the third-most efficient attack in the SEC and the 27th best in the nation at .267. Eighth in NCAA Division I in kills and assists, Bruns is third in the SEC and 31st in the country in assists (11.03).
During the Gamecock Invitational, the squad posted a .325 mark, while Bruns recorded 18 kills in 13 sets and hit .556 while also landing a pair of aces.
Top 50 in Gamecock History
A pair of Gamecocks moved into the top 50 on South Carolina’s all-time lists in 2011. Senior Teresa Stenlund now stands 50th in kills with 364 for her career, while sophomore Juliette ThÃƒÂ©venin moved into the top 50 in digs, where she’s currently 47th with 380. ThÃƒÂ©venin also ranks in the top 50 in kills (503, 43rd), attacks (1,345, 41st) and points (568.5, 48th) while Stenlund is in the top 40 in blocks solo (26, T-31st), block assists (123, 39th) and total blocks (149, T-37th).
Thomas Standing Tall
Freshman outside hitter Bethanie Thomas impressed the Gamecock coaching staff from the first day of practice this fall. They got the early glimpse at what was to come, as the freshman has played in every match and ranks third on the team in kills (2.32 per set) and digs (3.03 per set). What may be most impressive is her 183 serve receptions with only one error, by far the best percentage on the team.
The MVP of the Gamecock Invitational, she hit .391 and ranked second on the team in kills and third in digs during the event. Those are the same places she ranks in the team standings as well. Thomas’s best outing came against Elon, where she hit .577 with 16 kills and eight digs. That came on the heels of her posting her first double-double with 11 kills and 10 digs in the sweep of Davidson.
Frankie’s Not Working in Vain
Sophomore middle blocker Frankie Vain captured Gamecock Invitational All-Tournament Team accolades after hitting .519 in the four matches, posting 2.31 kills per set in the process. The St. Louis product also tied classmate Paige Wheeler with four aces in the event, tops on the team. She tied her career best with 10 kills against Gardner-Webb to start the event before posting back-to-back .538 hitting marks against Davidson and Elon.
Showdown Between Outstanding Hitters (Again)
Friday’s match showcases two of the top talents in the SEC among the outside hitters. Tennessee’s Kelsey Robinson lead the league in kills and points, while the Gamecocks’ Juliette ThÃƒÂ©venin ranks fourth in both categories.
Starting the week one spot out of the AVCA Top 25, the Lady Vols are 9-2 on the season and come off a pair of home sweeps of Georgia and Auburn to start SEC play. The Lady Vols have dominated foes offensively, putting down three more kills and making nearly three more assists per set than their foes. The team also out-hits the opposition by almost .100 points (.275-.179).
Hit by a major injury in preseason camp, sophomore Kelsey Robinson has stepped up to lead the team and the SEC with 4.86 kills per set. She’s also the top help to libero Ellen Mullins, making 3.33 digs per set, just behind Mullen’s team-best 3.60 average. Robinson also leads the Lady Vols’ strong serving with a 0.47 aces average, good for third in the league. Carly Sahagian has posted 2.34 kills per set, hits .327 and makes 2.55 digs per frame. Normally a very physical team, no Lady Vol blocks more than a ball per set. DeeDee Harrison leads that net crew with 0.79 blocks per frame. Mary Pollmiller sets for UT and ranks second in the SEC with 11.51 assists per set.
Series History vs. the Lady Vols
Tennessee has taken a 31-25 series lead in recent years, claiming the last five and 13 of the last 16. In Columbia, the Gamecocks are 14-8 against the Lady Vols, picking up their last three wins in the series at home (2006-08). Last season, Tennessee swept the match at the Volleyball Competition Facility, while South Carolina took one set in the SEC opener in Knoxville. It’s the second-longest series for the Gamecocks against an SEC foe, ranking just behind Georgia’s 60 games.
Third among teams receiving votes outside the AVCA Top 25, the Wildcats stand at 11-2 and 2-0 in SEC play entering the weekend. Kentucky, much like Tennessee, is dominant offensively, posting 2.7 more kills per set (14.3-11.6) and 2.8 assists a frame (13.2-10.4) than its foes. The Wildcats have been better up front, blocking 2.56 balls per set, about a half a block more than their opponents this season.
Ashley Frazier (2.82 kills per set) leads five Kentucky attackers that average over two kills per set. Also in that quintet is Lauren O’Conner, Gretchen Giesler, Becky Pavan and Ann Armes. Just outside that group is Whitney Billings, who averages 1.95 kills per set. Surprisingly, no Wildcat attacker has a hitting percentage higher than Armes’ .296 mark. Giesler leads the block, posting a 1.05 blocks average. Either Christine Hartmann (11 assists per set) or Elizabeth Koberstein (10 assists per set) will set for the team, with both posting great numbers. Stephanie Klefot leads the back-row group with 5.16 digs per set, while two others appear as defensive specialists. Billings stands second on the team with a 2.77 digs average.
Top Two Liberos Square Off
Sunday’s showdown between the Gamecocks and Wildcats could be a showcase for two of the top back-row talents in the league. Kentucky’s Stephanie Klefot leads the SEC with 5.16 digs per set, while South Carolina’s Paige Wheeler is second in the standings with a 4.74 digs average.
Series History vs. the Wildcats
The Gamecocks are 18-25 in history against the Kentucky Wildcats, snapping a seven-match losing streak in the meeting in Columbia last season. Kentucky has still taken 12 of the last 14. When at home, South Carolina own an 12-8 record against the Wildcats. The last South Carolina win in the series came in 2006, a five-set victory in the Volleyball Competition Facility in Columbia.
Former Alabama players get to say hi this weekend, as Kentucky redshirt junior Ashley Frazier and Gamecock graduate assistant Amy Pauly cross paths again. Both were part of the 2008 Alabama squad.
South Carolina’s players have posted outstanding individual efforts this fall, with many registering on the single-match charts for the Gamecocks. Sophomore Juliette ThÃƒÂ©venin registered on two lists during the team’s season-opening win over Montana. Her 21 kills and 50 attacks both tied for fourth on the three-set match list.
During the Gamecock Invitational, freshman Bethanie Thomas’s .577 hitting percentage against Elon became the fifth-best performance on the four-set match list. And sophomore Paige Wheeler tallied 28 digs against the Phoenix, tied for third on that list.