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Nov. 9, 2011

Volleyball Notes 11/9/11 Get Acrobat Reader

South Carolina plays its final weekend of road matches of 2011 at the two programs leading the Southeastern Conference Western Division, facing Arkansas first on Friday before playing at LSU on Sunday. The outing vs. the Razorbacks starts at 7 p.m. CST in Barnwell Arena in Fayetteville, while Sunday’s contest in Baton Rouge is slated for a 1:30 p.m. first serve at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. Links to live stats are available at, while in-match updates will be provided on the team’s Twitter feed, Paige Wheeler jumped ahead of the group into 40th with 490 career digs. In 43rd now is sophomore Juliette Thevenin with 469 digs, seven digs and three spots ahead of junior Taylor Bruns in 46th place. In between Thévenin and Bruns are Tina Grutsch and Nadia Sefferovich, who both had 468 digs in their career.

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 47th in kills (443) and attack attempts (1133) for her career, while sophomore libero Paige Wheeler ranks 40th in digs with 490. Sophomore Juliette Thévenin ranks in the top 50 in kills (607, 30th), attacks (1,635, 29th), digs (469, 43rd) and points (683.0, 40th) while Stenlund is in the top 50 in points (557.0, 49th) and in the top 40 in blocks solo (30, T-24th), block assists (152, 30th) and total blocks (182, 31st).

Junior setter Taylor Bruns ranks 11th in school history in assists (1,733), passing Petra Lorenzi during the College of Charleston Invitational. She’s now tied for 41st with 58 aces and stands 46th with 449 digs.

Wheeler Posting Gaudy Numbers

Sophomore Paige Wheeler officially has arrived, joining her predecessors Hannah Lawing and Sarah Cline as Gamecock liberos who claimed SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors. Wheeler was honored on Nov. 7 after averaging 5.83 digs per set in two matches, including posting 20 digs in the win over Alabama. She has four 20+ dig matches this year.

It wasn’t the first award for the Virginia Beach, Va., native. 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.

Bruns Nearly Flawless in Alabama Win

Junior setter Taylor Bruns has posted some strong outings in her three-year career in Columbia, but never had she posted as many points as she did in the win over Alabama. Her 14 points tied for the team best, as she tallied seven kills (without an error), a career-best-tying six aces and two block assists in the sweep of the Crimson Tide. The junior is 125 assists away from passing Katelyn Panzau for 10th in Gamecock history.

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, sixth 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. 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 a chance for redshirt freshman Cara Howley to reenter the lineup after her true freshman campaign was cut short by injury. The McKinney, Texas, native took the opportunity and ran with it, tying for the team lead with a 2.50 kills average and helped better the team’s hitting percentage during the five-match stretch without Thévenin. 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.

Howley left the home Mississippi match with an undisclosed issue. Her status is undetermined for the weekend.

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 (2.04 per set), while she been a larger presence at the net, posting 0.82 blocks per set, including a 1.29 per set average in the home 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 on Oct. 10.

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.

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.

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.

Most recently, junior Taylor Bruns landed six aces against Alabama (11/6), tying for fourth on the three-set match charts with five others.

Top Outside Hitters Square Off Friday Night

In Fayetteville, two of the top outside hitters face each other. Gamecock sophomore Juliette Thévenin, who ranks fourth in the league standings in kills and sixth in kills, leads her team against Arkansas, who relies on Jasmine Norton on the outside. Norton stands seventh in both kills and points in the SEC statistics released on Monday.

Scouting Arkansas

The Razorbacks enter the weekend with an 17-9 record and a 9-6 SEC record, one game behind LSU in the SEC Western Division race. A strong defensive team, the Razorbacks hold foes to a .172 hitting percentage, second in the SEC. In SEC matches only, they rank third, keeping opponents to a .186 mark. Arkansas uses strong serving and blocking to limit foes offense. standing third in aces (1.19 per set) and fifth in blocks (2.26 per set) in league play.

Jasmine Norton is among the SEC’s leaders in kills and points, ranking third in both during league play. Amanda Anderson has helped her, standing seventh in the league with her .316 hitting percentage in league play. Anderson averages 1.65 kills per set, while her 0.31 service aces per set lead the squad. Kelli Stipanovich is the second option on the outside, killing 3.31 balls a set. Setter Raymariely Santos guides the offense with 9.92 assists per set and adds 1.02 kills per set. Christa Alvarez tops the Hogs in digs, posting 3.58 per set. Nearly every Razorback helps at the net, with nine posting more than 0.5 blocks a set.

Series History vs. the Razorbacks

The 1992 additions to the SEC have faced off 28 times previously, with the Razorbacks claiming 19 of those. When playing in Fayetteville, South Carolina is 4-9, last winning there on Sept. 28, 2008.

Reuniting Club Members

Junior Taylor Bruns can reunite with Kasey Heckelman, a transfer from Louisville in her first season playing for the Razorbacks, as both were a part of the Illini Elite club.

Leading Liberos Featured on Sunday

The top two backline defenses, led by two of the best liberos, face off on Sunday in Baton Rouge. Tiger Meghan Mannari (4.51 digs per set) has a slight lead on South Carolina’s Paige Wheeler (4.45 digs per set), with the duo both trailing Kentucky libero Stephanie Klefot. Wheeler’s group, however, averages a dig more a set than does Mannari’s.

Scouting LSU

The SEC Western Division leading Tigers rank among the league’s leaders in nearly every category, especially excelling in serving and digging. Ranking second in aces and digs in all matches, the Tigers lead the SEC in league matches with 16.61 digs per set. LSU is also good offensively, standing third in assists and kills and fourth in hitting percentage. Surprisingly, the Tigers are just eighth in blocks (2.10 per set).

A balanced offensive attack is led by the trio of Desiree Elliott, Madie Jones and Michele Williams. All three hit over .260 and average 3.00 kills a set or more. Williams and Elliott post nearly a block a set as well. Malorie Pardo leads the SEC with her 11.82 assists per set. Meghan Mannari leads the defensive group with 4.51 digs per set, which is second in the SEC. She’s also fourth in the league with 0.35 aces per set.

Series History vs. the Tigers

LSU holds a 17-12 advantage in the series that began when the Gamecocks joined the SEC in 1991. In Baton Rouge, South Carolina has gone 6-8, last winning on the bayou on Sept. 26, 2003. The Tigers have taken the last six matches in the series.

Reuniting Club Members . . . Part Two

Redshirt freshman Cara Howley gets to see two of her former Skyline club members on Sunday afternoon, as Tiger juniors Madie Jones and Meghan Manneri also played with the Dallas-area club.