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Oct. 27, 2011

Volleyball Notes 10/27/11 Get Acrobat Reader

COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina returns to the road this weekend to take on two nationally-ranked foes in Kentucky and Tennessee. Friday’s match against the 24th-ranked Wildcats is set for 7 p.m. in Memorial Coliseum, while Sunday’s affair at Thompson-Boling Arena vs. the 20th-ranked Lady Vols starts at 1:30 p.m. Gametracker live stats will be available for both matches.

Facing the Heart of the SEC
South Carolina is halfway through a stretch where it plays four of the top six teams in the SEC in consecutive outings, including taking on the top three SEC Eastern Division squads. The Gamecocks split the home half of the stretch, losing to No. 13 Florida before beating Mississippi State. Now the team hits the road to face Kentucky (3rd, 8-8) and Tennessee (1st, 9-1).

700 And Counting
In the 39th year of sponsoring volleyball, South Carolina has made seven NCAA Tournament appearances and posted 17 20-win seasons in history. On 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 800 with a sweep of Winthrop. South Carolina is the sixth team in the SEC to compile 700 wins all-time, following Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU and Tennessee.

The Improvement Is Easy to See
South Carolina surpassed its win total from 2010 before starting SEC play. The 2011 edition won its first seven matches inside the first eight days of the schedule. To put that in perspective, the Gamecocks did not win their seventh match of 2010 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.

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.

South Carolina Among Nation’s Best
Halfway into the season, the Gamecocks are among the nation’s leaders in digs, ranking 30th with a 17.26 per-set average. Offensively, South Carolina is 46th in assists (12.78), 54th in kills (13.66) and 56th in hitting (.240). The full stats breakdown for the Gamecocks comes on page seven of the notes.

Looking to Change Fortune vs. Ranked Teams
Since 1991, the Gamecocks hold a 8-89 record against ranked opponents. Half of those wins over ranked teams have come against SEC foes, but none have come against a ranked Kentucky or Tennessee team. Also, never has a win over a ranked team come on the road in SEC play. Only once have the Gamecocks won a match against a ranked team at its gym (Notre Dame, 9/14/2003).

Competition on Career Digs Chart
Currently, three Gamecocks appear in a row on the all-time digs list at South Carolina. Junior Taylor Bruns is tied for 46th with 437 digs, eight ahead of sophomore Paige Wheeler in 48th and 10 in front of Juliette Thévenin in 49th. Bruns is tied with Julie Morrison, who made 437 digs from 1984-87 with Kendyl Schaefer just ahead of her with 442.

Top 50 in Gamecock History
A quartet of Gamecocks continue to climb in the top 50 on South Carolina’s all-time lists in 2011. Senior Teresa Stenlund stands 48th in kills (426) and 49th in attack attempts (1090) for her career, while sophomore libero Paige Wheeler ranks 48th in digs with 429. Sophomore Juliette Thévenin ranks in the top 50 in kills (571, 33rd), attacks (1,522, 34th), digs (427, 49th) and points (641.5, 43rd) while Stenlund is in the top 50 in points (535.0, 50th) and in the top 40 in blocks solo (29, T-27th), block assists (144, 31st) and total blocks (173, 31st).

Junior setter Taylor Bruns ranks 11th in school history in assists (1,636), passing Petra Lorenzi during the College of Charleston Invitational. She’s now 47th in aces with 51 and stands 47th in digs with 437.

Belgian Sensation Picking up Where She Left Off
Juliette Thévenin 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.

The sophomore returned to action at Ole Miss after missing five matches due to concussion symptoms and picked up where she left off, posting a double-double with 17 kills and 10 digs in the four-set victory. Thévenin ranks fourth in the SEC in kills, fifth in points and ninth in digs.

Thévenin Return Brings About Season Best
South Carolina posted a season-best .394 hitting percentage in the win at Ole Miss on Sunday afternoon. That ranks as the third-best four-set match mark in Gamecock history and the highest in the rally-scoring era. The return of sophomore outside hitter Juliette Thévenin seemed to spark the Gamecock offense and open things up for other hitters.

Opportunity Knocks, Howley Answers
When Juliette Thévenin was out due to injury, it created the chance for some other players to show their skills in the lineup. Redshirt freshman Cara Howley took the opportunity and ran with it, putting herself back in the rotation with her stellar play. The McKinney, Texas, product tied for the team lead with a 2.50 kills average and helped better the team’s hitting percentage during the five-match stretch with her .225 mark. When Thévenin returned against Ole Miss, Howley shined, posting 12 kills and a .524 hitting percentage. She continued that roll with consecutive 10-point performances against No. 13 Florida and Mississippi State.

In 2010, Howley saw her true freshman season cut short due to a knee injury in her first career SEC match. At the time of the injury, she ranked third on the team in hitting percentage and kills per set.

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 fourth on the team in kills (2.16 per set), while she been a larger presence at the net, posting 0.84 blocks per set, including a 1.29 per set average in the weekend against LSU and Arkansas. She became the 50th person in South Carolina Volleyball history to record 500 points, hitting the mark with her block assist in the third set against Arkansas.

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.

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 (2.36 per set) and third in digs (2.97 per set). She also leads the team in serve-reception percentage (.960). The MVP of the Gamecock Invitational, she hit .391 and ranked second on the team in kills and third in digs during the event.

Thomas has shifted to the left side recently, tying for the team lead with 2.50 kills per set while Juliette Thévenin was out for five matches. She also stood second on the squad with 3.19 digs per set in that stretch.

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 has played well, leading the team and ranking third in the SEC with 4.34 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.

She averaged 5.86 digs per set during the LSU/Arkansas home weekend on Oct. 7-9, including posting 25 digs against the Tigers on Friday night.

Libero Leaders Face Off Friday
Two of the top three liberos in the SEC face off on Friday night, as SEC digs leader Stephanie Klefot and third-ranked Paige Wheeler will wear the off-colored jersey for the Wildcats and Gamecocks, respectively.

Scouting Kentucky
The 24th-ranked Wildcats stand at 19-4 overall and 10-2 in the SEC. In the top half of the league in every statistical category, Kentucky shines at the net, blocking 2.61 attacks per set. Second in the league in assists and kills, UK also ranks third in hitting percentage (.249) and fourth in aces (1.33). Those aces rise to 1.50 in SEC play, while they have held SEC foes to 0.59 aces per set.

Kentucky’s balanced offense is led by Ashley Frazier, who posts 3.07 kills per set. In SEC action, that mark rises to 3.24. All five of the Wildcats’ hitters hold kills averages of 2.24 or better in league play, and only one is hitting below .250 (Lauren O’Conner at .203). Christine Hartmann sets the offense, dishing out more than 11 assists a set. The backline defense is captained by Stephanie Klefot with her league-leading 4.69 digs per set. While no one player has blocked more than a ball per frame, Kentucky’s six front-line players all average better than a half-block a set. Becky Pavan leads the group overall at 0.95, which climbs to 1.17 in SEC play. The tough serving is led by Frazier and Klefot, who average 0.36 and 0.25 aces per set.

Series History vs. the Wildcats
A series full of winning streaks has swung Kentucky’s way recently, as the Wildcats own a 26-18 lead. Kentucky has taken 13 of 15, including seven straight in Lexington. The Gamecocks’ record at Kentucky is 6-16, with the last win coming in 2003.

Ball State Reunion
Many of the staff members at Kentucky share an alma mater with Gamecock director of operations Shane Wilkinson. Wildcat head coach Craig Skinner, assistant coach Keith Schunzel and volunteer assistant Anders Nelson all graduated from Ball State like Wilkinson. Nelson also worked as a student statistical analyst for Minnesota during a part of South Carolina head coach Scott Swanson’s tenure before heading to Muncie, Ind.

Reuniting Teammates
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.

Pair of Top Outside Hitters on Opposite Sides Sunday
Sunday’s match showcases two of the top six-rotation talents in the SEC among the outside hitters, and both are sophomores. Tennessee’s Kelsey Robinson lead the league in kills and points while she is just outside the top 10 in digs. The Gamecocks’ Juliette Thévenin ranks fourth in kills, fifth in points and eighth in digs.

Scouting Tennessee
The Lady Vols, ranked 20th in the latest AVCA coaches poll, lead the SEC with an 18-3 overall record and a 11-1 mark in SEC play. In the top five in every SEC stat category, Tennessee leads the league in kills and assists and stands second in hitting percentage.

Kelsey Robinson powers the Big Orange attack, leading the league in kills (4.52), points (5.24) and aces (0.42). The sophomore also ranks second on the team with 3.31 digs per set. Leslie Cikra ranks second on the team with 2.77 kills per set while leading the squad and ranking 10th in the SEC with a .306 hitting percentage. Freshman Mary Pollmiller sets the offense, averaing 11.71 assists per set, second in the league. Dee Dee Harrison tops Tennessee and the SEC with 1.08 blocks per set. Ellen Mullins captains the back-row defense, making 3.83 digs a frame.

Series History vs. the Lady Vols
In a series that dates back to the second season of South Carolina volleyball, Tennessee owns a 32-25 advantage in the series. The Lady Vols have taken six consecutive meetings, seven of eight and 14 of 17. In Knoxville, the Gamecocks are 9-17, last winning there in 2002.

Single-Match Superlatives
The Gamecocks have posted outstanding individual efforts this fall, with some ranking on the program’s single-match charts. Sophomore Juliette Thévenin 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.

You Never Know What You’ll Hear
The Gamecocks have people who can speak in many different tongues. Student-athletes Teresa Stenlund and Juliette Thévenin both list four languages in their grasp, while assistant coach Michelle Collier can speak three. If the staff’s kids (each coach has a child aged two or under) picked up all the languages one might hear from that trio, they would be working on seven languages (Dutch, English, French, German, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish).

Roster Filled from All Over
Out of 16 players on South Carolina’s 2011 roster, a mere handful come from the same states. Four hail from South Carolina, and two come from Georgia. The rest come from states as far away as California, Indiana and Maryland. One even comes from Belgium, making this the 16th-consecutive season at least one Gamecock hailed from a different country.

A Decade Since This Feat
South Carolina was the last Southeastern Conference 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. The 2001 season was the middle of a three-season run of NCAA appearances for the Gamecocks. It was also the first year of rally scoring in NCAA volleyball.

Wheeler Bettered Weekly Award Winner
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.