Sept. 29, 2011
COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina takes to the road this weekend, heading to Georgia and Auburn for important Southeastern Conference matches. Friday’s contest in Athens begins at 7 p.m. in the Ramsey Student Center, while Sunday’s match starts at 1:30 p.m. CDT in Auburn’s Student Activities Center. Both matches will have Gametracker live stats available at GamecocksOnline.com
South Carolina Among Nation’s Best
Thirteen matches into the season, the Gamecocks are among the nation’s top 50 in four stat categories. The highest ranking comes in digs, where the squad’s 17.94 average ranks ninth. Offensively, South Carolina is 21st in assists (13.15), 26th in kills (14.06) and 41st in hitting (.250). The full stats breakdown for the Gamecocks come on page seven of the PDF version of the notes linked above.
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.
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.
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.
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 second on the team with her 2.35 kills average and third with a 2.89 digs average. Forst ranks fifth on the team in kills per set (1.88) and digs per set (2.17). They join three sophomores, a junior and a senior in the typical rotation.
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 368 for her career, while sophomore Juliette ThÃƒÂ©venin moved into the top 50 in digs, where she’s currently 47th with 396. ThÃƒÂ©venin also ranks in the top 50 in kills (531, 36th), attacks (1,423, 36th) and points (599.0, 46th) while Stenlund is in the top 40 in blocks solo (28, T-28th), block assists (124, T-38th) and total blocks (152, 37th).
Junior setter Taylor Bruns ranks 11th in school history in assists (1,420), passing Petra Lorenzi during the College of Charleston Invitational. She’s now 49th in aces with 48 and 48th in digs with 374 in her career.
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 also gained all-tourney accolades at the College of Charleston Invitational. She currently ranks fourth in the SEC in kills and points and eighth 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 fourth-most efficient attack in the SEC and the 41st in the nation at .250. In the top 30 in NCAA Division I in kills and assists, Bruns is fifth in the SEC and 59th in the country in assists (10.57).
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.
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 second on the team in kills (2.35 per set) and third in digs (2.89 per set). What may be most impressive is her 219 serve receptions with only two errors, 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.
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 ranks third on the team in kills (2.11 per set), while she been a larger presence at the net, posting 0.86 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.
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 third in the SEC with 4.32 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.
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.
Similar Numbers Between Setters in Friday’s Contest
The two setters in Friday’s contest show many statistical similarities. Kathleen Gates and Taylor Bruns are fourth and fifth in the SEC in assists, respectively, and they have combined for 10 double-doubles (six for Bruns, four for Gates). Bruns has served 0.22 aces per set this year, just ahead of Gates’ 0.20 average. Gates has one year of experience on Bruns, a junior.
Georgia comes into Friday’s contest with a 5-9 overall record and a 1-3 mark in league play. The Bulldogs are in the middle of the pack in the SEC in assists, kills, blocks and aces, but they are not a very efficient hitting team and have problems on the back row. While libero Allison Summers stands fifth in the league with a 3.80 digs average, her team is last with a 12.98 mark.
The Dogs are led by a trio of hitters, with Brittany Northcutt topping the team with 3.11 kills per set. She’s also second on the squad with 2.11 digs per frame. Kathleen Luft (2.97 kills per set) and Tirah Le’au (2.92 kills per set) provide good options for setter Kathleen Gates, who dishes out 10.86 assists per frame. Elizabeth Reid (.271 hitting percentage, 0.91 blocks per set) and Ann Dylla (.242, 1.02) provide a strong presence in the middle. Briana Bahr (2.50 kills average, .260 hitting) also helps the Bulldog offense.
Series History vs. the Bulldogs
South Carolina and Georgia have met 60 times, the most meetings in a series for the Gamecocks. Georgia holds a 44-16 advantage in the series, including a season sweep last year. The Carolina Gamecocks are 7-18 when playing the Bulldogs in Athens, but the last 15 meetings in Bulldog territory have been more even, with South Carolina taking their seven wins during that timeframe since 1996.
Two pairs of clubmates from both South Carolina and Georgia face off on Friday night in Athens. Former A5 club members Brandi Byers and Lindsey Craft both played with the club and can see Georgia’s A5 alums Nicole Choi and Gaby Smiley.
Auburn enters the weekend with an 8-6 record and a 2-2 mark in SEC play. The Tigers rank in the bottom three in the SEC stat rankings in every category, yet they have more kills, assists, digs and blocks than their foes this season.
Kelly Fidero paces the Tiger attack, leading the team with a 2.91 kills average while ranking second in hitting (.280). Camila Jersonsky tops the team in hitting (.363) and ranks third with 2.00 kills per set. Sarah Bullock ranks second on the team in kills (2.59 per set) and third in digs (2.22 per frame). Chloe Rowand leads the team with 1.03 blocks per set, but she’s played just half of the sets in SEC play so far. A team that played the 6-2 early, Auburn has started utilizing Chelsea Wintzinger as its lone setter in SEC play, as she averages nine assists per set in the four league matches. MacKenzy Harper leads the Tigers with 2.86 digs per set.
Series History vs. the Tigers
The Gamecocks hold an 20-10 advantage in the series against Auburn. Surprisingly, South Carolina has done better at Auburn (10-4) than at home (9-6) in the series. However, the Tigers have taken the last two meetings in the Student Activities Center, including a sweep last season.
Reuniting Teammates . . . Part Two
A number of friends meet each other on the court on the Plains of Alabama this Sunday. Gamecock redshirt freshman Cara Howley gets to see high school foes and fellow Skyline club members Sarah Bullock and Katherine Culwell, both juniors on the Tigers’ roster. Bethanie Thomas can reconnect with Chelsea Wintzinger, both from the Huntsville area in northern Alabama. While both from Irvine, Calif., Teresa Stenlund and Sarah Wroblicky never teamed up in club or high school.
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.