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Oct. 10, 2013

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The South Carolina volleyball team returns to action at home this weekend as it welcomes a pair of SEC foes to the Volleyball Competition Facility, including its first ranked opponent of the season.

The Gamecocks will face Georgia on Friday at 7 p.m. and will take on No. 15 Kentucky on Sunday at 1:30 p.m.

Friday: vs. Georgia, 7 p.m. | | Live Video
Sunday: vs. No. 15 Kentucky, 1:30 p.m. | | Live Video
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South Carolina Quick Hits
• South Carolina is in its third season with head coach Scott Swanson.
• Last year’s team went 18-14, the program’s second winning season in the last decade and the most wins since 2008 (21).
• The Gamecocks return five letterwinners from a year ago, including two starters (senior Juliette Thévenin, sophomore Darian Dozier).
• With the departure of 11 letterwinners, South Carolina lost 97 percent of its production from last season in assists (1,346), 78.1 percent in digs (1,252) and 58.9 percent in kills (876).
• The 2012 Gamecocks improved their offensive efficiency for the second straight year, raising their hitting percentage 29 points to .255, which ranked third in the SEC.
• South Carolina returns its leader in kills (Juliette Thévenin, 453) and its second-leading blocker (Darian Dozier, 67).

Last Time Out
The Gamecocks went 1-1 in SEC play at home last weekend, dropping a thrilling five-set match with Arkansas and defeating Texas A&M in four sets. The win is the program’s first ever over the Aggies in five tries. The Gamecocks enter this week’s action at 10-6 overall and 2-2 in the SEC. Senior outside hitter Juliette Thévenin led South Carolina offensively, averaging 4.56 kills per set on the weekend. She has recorded double-doubles in three straight matches after finishing with 23 kills and 11 digs against Texas A&M and 18 kills and 13 digs against Arkansas. Sophomore middle blocker Darian Dozier was stellar both offensively and defensively as she averaged 2.78 kills per set while hitting .523 and 1.33 blocks per set. In Sunday’s win over the Aggies, Dozier tallied a career-high 18 kills with a hitting percentage of .571 and recorded six block assists. Sophomore Sarah Blomgren continued to grow in her role as she finished with 11 kills and three blocks against Arkansas and 10 kills and two blocks against the Aggies.

Scouting Georgia
Coming off wins over Tennessee and Ole Miss last weekend, the Bulldogs head into Friday’s matchup at 13-3 overall and 3-1 in SEC play. Georgia is a win away from matching last season’s win total. The Bulldogs went 14-16 overall a year ago and 8-12 in SEC matches. The Bulldogs have gone to several options offensively this season, with four players averaging more than two kills per set. Senior right side Stacey Smith leads the way with an average of 2.58 kills per set, while junior middle blocker Lauren Teknipp is close behind with an average of 2.56 kills per frame. Senior outside hitter Brittany Northcutt, who recently recorded her 1,000th career kill, is averaging 2.51 kills per set, and junior outside hitter Le’au Inutiraha has a season average of 2.11 kills per set. With the Bulldogs playing a 6-2 system, junior Kaylee Kehoe and sophomore Maggie Baumert have been Georgia’s setting duo, averaging 6.29 and 4.58 assists per set, respectively. Senior libero Allison Summers anchors the back line and ranks third in the SEC in digs with an average of 4.56 per set. Senior middle blocker Elena Perri has been the Bulldogs’ top blocker, averaging 0.98 per set. As a team Georgia has been one of the best in the SEC at the net, ranking fourth in the conference in blocks per set (2.54).

Leading the Bulldogs
Lizzy Stemke is in her third season as head coach of the Georgia program and has compiled a 38-38 record with the Bulldogs. Prior to joining the Georgia program, Stemke had assistant coaching stints at Nebraska (2007-10), North Carolina (2005-06) and Central Florida (2003). During her playing days, Stemke was a three-year starter at Wisconsin, winning two Big Ten titles and finishing runner-up in the NCAA Tournament in 2000.

Series History vs. Georgia
Friday’s matchup will be the 64th meeting all-time between the Gamecocks and Bulldogs. Georgia leads the series 45-18. South Carolina has won the last two meetings, including a sweep of the Bulldogs last season on Sept. 14, 2012 at the Volleyball Competition Facility. Georgia’s last win in Columbia was a 3-1 victory on Oct. 15, 2010. The Gamecocks are 4-6 in their last 10 matchups with the Bulldogs.

Last Time vs. Georgia – Sept. 14, 2012
The Gamecocks swept the Bulldogs in last year’s meeting at the Volleyball Competition Facility by the scores of 26-24, 25-18 and 25-19. Juliette Thévenin hit .333 to lead the way with 18 kills. Taylor Bruns added 35 assists, seven digs and three blocks.

Scouting No. 15 Kentucky
The 15th-ranked Wildcats head into the weekend tied atop the SEC standings with Florida with a 12-3 overall record and a 4-0 mark in conference play. Kentucky is coming off a pair of wins, sweeping Ole Miss and Tennessee. In four SEC matches this season, the Wildcats have lost just one set, the first set against Alabama on Sept. 29. Kentucky is one of the more experienced squads in the country as it has five starters back from last year’s team that went 22-11 overall and 14-6 in the SEC and advanced to the NCAA Regional Semifinal. Senior outside hitter Whitney Billings, a first-team All-SEC selection a year ago, leads the Wildcat offense with an average of 3.69 kills per set, which ranks fifth in the SEC. Senior Alexandra Morgan and sophomore Sara Schwarzwalder, a 2012 SEC All-Freshman team selection, have been a stellar middle blocker duo for Kentucky. Morgan averages a team-high 1.09 blocks per set and 1.96 kills per set, while Schwarzwalder averages 0.92 blocks and 1.57 kills per set. Kentucky’s primary setter has been Morgan Bergren as she ranks sixth in the SEC with an average of 10.5 assists per set. Junior defensive specialist Jackie Napper has been the anchor on the back line, averaging 3.80 digs per set, which ranks ninth in the SEC.

Leading the Wildcats
Craig Skinner is in his ninth season as head coach of the Wildcats. Skinner, who has guided Kentucky to eight consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, has compiled a career record of 192-79. Prior to being named head coach at Kentucky, Skinner spent five seasons as an assistant coach at Nebraska and helped lead the Cornhuskers to the 2000 NCAA title.

Series History vs. Kentucky
South Carolina and Kentucky will square off for the 47th time on Sunday. The Wildcats lead the all-time series 28-18. Kentucky has won three-straight meetings, including a 3-0 win in Lexington last season. The Gamecocks are 1-9 in their last 10 meetings with Kentucky. South Carolina’s last win over the Wildcats was a 3-0 victory at the Volleyball Competition Facility on Oct. 22, 2010.

Last Time vs. Kentucky – Nov. 4, 2012
Kentucky defeated the Gamecocks in last year’s matchup at Memorial Coliseum by the scores of 25-14, 25-18 an 25-18. Juliette Thévenin led the way with 12 kills while hitting .417.

Leaving Her Mark
Senior outside hitter Juliette Thévenin has been a regular in the starting lineup during her Gamecock career and her name will be scattered throughout the school record book when she’s done. She is currently in the top-10 in five career categories, ranking third in kills (1,417), second in kills per set (4.06), third in attacks (3,621), sixth in points (1,559.0) and third in points per set (4.47). On the season she is averaging a league-best 4.88 kills and 5.26 points per set. For a complete list of career records see page eight.

Gamecocks in the SEC Stats
Senior outside hitter Juliette Thévenin has had a stellar start to her final year in Garnet and Black as she currently leads the SEC in both kills (4.88) and points (5.26) per set. In SEC matches only, Thévenin ranks second in kills (4.62) and points (5.12). Sophomore middle blocker Darian Dozier has been one of the best blockers in the league as she ranks second in the conference in blocks with an average of 1.27 per frame. Sophomore setter Kellie McNeil is seventh in the SEC in assists per set (10.32), while junior libero Michaela Christiaansen is eighth in digs per set (3.85). McNeil is also in the top 20 in blocks as she ranks 15th with an average of 0.92 per set. As a team, South Carolina has been one of the most efficient offenses, ranking fifth with a hitting percentage of .248.

And in the NCAA Stats
Two Gamecocks rank in the top 50 nationally in the latest NCAA statistics report. Senior Juliette Thévenin is in the top 15 in the nation in two categories, ranking eighth in kills per set (4.88) and 11th in points per set (5.26). Sophomore middle blocker Darian Dozier moved into the top 50 at 44th in blocks per set with an average of 1.27.

Among the Active Leaders
Senior outside hitter Juliette Thévenin is among the active career leaders in kills in the SEC and nationally. She ranks second in the SEC with 1,417, trailing only Missouri’s Lisa Henning (1,544). She is seventh in career kills per set among active Division I players with an average of 4.06. Her career average ranks 13th among all divisions.

Packing the Stands
Gamecock fans have given South Carolina a huge home-court advantage this season by packing the stands at the Volleyball Competition Facility. The Gamecocks have drawn five crowds of more than 1,000 this season, including 1,405 against Arkansas and 1,430 against Texas A&M. The attendance at the Texas A&M match is the fourth largest in VCF history. The Gamecocks have averaged 979 fans in eight home matches this season.

Seeing Double
Senior Juliette Thévenin and sophomore setter Kellie McNeil lead the team in double-doubles, recording five and four, respectively. Thévenin has posted three-straight double-doubles, while McNeil has two in the last three matches. The Gamecocks are 4-2 in matches Thévenin and McNeil have recorded double-doubles.

Doing it All
Sophomore setter Kellie McNeil has been one of South Carolina’s most versatile players this season. In the Gamecocks’ win at Tennessee, McNeil came up just shy of finishing with a triple double, recording 41 assists and career-highs in digs (20) and blocks (7). A transfer from Minnesota, McNeil is averaging 10.32 assists, 2.02 digs and 0.92 blocks per set this season. She is also averaging 0.90 kills per set while hitting .294.

Sophomore middle blocker Darian Dozier played a key role in the Gamecocks’ 3-1 win over Texas A&M, recording a career-high 18 kills while hitting .571 and finishing with six block assists. When Dozier has reached double-figures in kills this season, South Carolina has a 3-1 record, with its only loss being in five sets at Clemson. On the season Dozier is averaging 2.13 kills per set and ranks second in the SEC with an average of 1.27 blocks per set.

Filling a Need
Freshman middle blocker Jacqy Angermiller has stepped into the lineup and made her presence felt at the net after missing the first six matches of the season with an injury. Angermiller came up big at the Duke Invitational, averaging a team-best 1.70 blocks per set. She posted a season-high nine blocks to lead the team against Duke. On the season she is averaging 1.92 kills per set while hitting .259 and is averaging 1.17 blocks per set.

Thévenin Garners SEC Honor
Senior outside hitter Juliette Thévenin was named SEC Offensive Player of the Week on Sept. 23. Thévenin earned the award for the third time in her career after leading the Gamecocks to three wins to claim the Carolina Classic title. Thévenin, who was named tournament MVP, averaged 5.70 kills per set while hitting .436 for the tournament and averaged 6.00 points and 2.40 digs per set. In South Carolina’s win over Western Carolina, she recorded 20 kills, the most in the league in three sets this season. She hit a career-best .571 to finish with 26 kills in a four-set victory over Robert Morris.

Tourney Toughness
The Gamecocks played in four preseason tournaments this season, the Gamecock Invitational, Big Orange Bash, Duke Invitational and Carolina Classic. It’s the most tournaments a South Carolina team has played in before conference play since 2003, when the Gamecocks played in four that season. South Carolina won the Gamecock Invitational and Carolina Classic titles.

Accumulating Hardware
The Gamecocks played in four preseason tournaments this season and have been well represented during the tournament awards ceremonies. Senior Juliette Thévenin was named MVP of the Gamecock Invitational and the Carolina Classic. Sophomore Kellie McNeil earned a spot on the Gamecock Invitational All-Tournament Team. Thévenin was also named to the All-Tournament Team at the Big Orange Bash. At the Duke Invitational, McNeil and sophomore Darian Dozier each earned a sport on the All-Tournament Team. Dozier was also named to the Carolina Classic All-Tournament Team.

Thévenin Named Preseason All-SEC
Senior outside hitter Juliette Thévenin was named to the Preseason All-SEC squad. Thévenin, a second-team All-SEC selection in 2012, looks to close out her Gamecock career in strong fashion after ranking second in SEC play in both kills per set (4.40) and points per set (4.81) a year ago.

New Faces
This year’s South Carolina squad doesn’t have a lot of familiarity to it, as only five letterwinners return from a year ago. Head coach Scott Swanson brought in 12 newcomers this season, including a freshman class of 10 players. The Gamecocks have received some immediate help from transfers Kellie McNeil (Minnesota) and Michaela Christiaansen (Pepperdine).

Gamecocks on TV
South Carolina has one match scheduled to be on television this season. The Gamecocks’ match at Florida on Wednesday, Nov. 13 will be televised nationally on ESPNU.

All-Time Records
• South Carolina holds a 734-561 (.567) record.
• The Gamecocks are 194-220 (.469) in SEC play.
• In matches played at the Volleyball Competition Facility, South Carolina is 155-77 (.668).