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Sept. 17, 2015

COLUMBIA, S.C. – The South Carolina volleyball team returns from its longest road trip of the season to host the Carolina Classic this weekend. The team welcomes in regional rivals East Carolina, Charleston Southern and Wofford.

The Gamecocks (4-5) are scheduled to open against ECU (6-2) on Friday at 7 p.m. with matches at 1 and 7 p.m. on Saturday against Charleston Southern (3-9) and Wofford (5-6), respectively. All three matches will be televised live on SEC Network+.

Friday: vs. East Carolina, 7 p.m. | SEC Network+
Saturday: vs. Charleston Southern, 1 p.m. | SEC Network+
Saturday: vs. Wofford, 7 p.m. | SEC Network+
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South Carolina at a Glance
• South Carolina enters its fifth season under the direction of head coach Scott Swanson.
• The Gamecocks went 17-14 overall and 7-11 in the SEC in 2014.
• The seven SEC wins are Carolina’s most during the Swanson era and the most since going 12-8 in 2008.
• The Gamecocks return 10 letter winners from a year ago, including five players who started 10 or more matches (Koko Atoa-Williams, Darian Dozier, Sarah Blomgren, Jacqy Angermiller and Megan Kirkland).
• The Gamecocks’ roster is made up of eight freshmen (seven true freshmen), eight juniors, and three seniors.
• A total of nine states – California (2), Florida (3), Georgia (2), Maryland (1), Missouri (1), Nevada (1), North Carolina (1), South Carolina (2) and Texas (5) – and Puerto Rico (1) are represented on the Gamecock roster.

Look Who’s Back
• The Gamecocks return 67.7 percent (986) of their kills from last season. Junior outside hitter Koko Atoa-Williams ranked second on the squad with 304 kills in 2014, averaging 2.51 per set.
• With the departure of setters Kellie McNeil and Allie Monserez, the Gamecocks only return 5.1 percent (70) of their assists from 2014. True freshman Aubrey Ezell will be counted on to fill that role in 2015.
• Carolina returns 41.8 percent (766) of its digs from last season. Atoa-Williams is the leading returner as she tallied 283 digs in 2014, averaging 2.34 per set.
• The Gamecocks return 71.5 percent (369) of their blocks from 2014. Senior middle blocker Darian Dozier will lead the way after setting a rally-scoring-era school record last season with 141 total blocks.

Recapping the Michigan Challenge
• The Gamecocks went 0-3 last weekend in at the Michigan Challenge, hosted by the Wolverines. They would open the tournament with a 3-1 loss to Pittsburgh, then were swept 3-0 by #24 Michigan and finished the weekend with a 3-1 loss to Western Michigan.
• The Gamecocks had not matched up with Michigan and Pitt since 2000 and 2005, respectively, and it was the first-ever matchup with Western Michigan.
• Against the Panthers, senior Sarah Blomgren led the Gamecocks with 13 kills while hitting .321, while freshman outside hitter Courtney Furlong added a eight kills, seven digs and four blocks.
• It was a breakout weekend overall for Furlong, who broke her career bests for kills over each of the three matches, going from eight to 10 to 13 as the weekend went on.
• The Gamecocks kept an impressive mark rolling through the weekend out in the midwest. Though their seven-match streak out out-blocking opponents came to an end, the Gamecocks still have not been out-blocked themselves after matching Michigan and Western Michigan in rejections. Senior Darian Dozier set a season-high in the category against Western Michigan, totaling seven in the four-set match.
• Many of the team’s freshmen enjoyed career days against the Broncos to cap the weekend. Along with Furlong’s 13 kills, setter Aubrey Ezell dished out a career-high 49 assists and Emma Lock and Claire Blumenthal also posted career highs in digs with 19 and 11, respectively.

Carolina’s All-Tournament Accolades
• Junior outside hitter Dessaa Legros earned her third-straight All-Tournament honor after recording 20 kills, five digs and a career-high four blocks against the Broncos as part of the Michigan Challenge.
• Earlier this month, Legros earned a spot on Furman’s Carolina Classic All-Tournament Team as she averaged 4.23 kills and 2.62 digs per set.
• Junior DS/Libero Megan Kirkland was also named to Furman’s Carolina Classic All-Tournament Team after averaging 3.92 digs per set and recording five service aces.

Gamecocks in the SEC Stats
• Carolina ranks third in the league in digs (14.61 per set) and eighth in blocks (2.12 per set).
• Junior outside hitter Dessaa Legros ranks third in kills per set (4.00), third in kills (128) and fourth in points per set (4.27). In the national ranks, she sits at 49th overall.
• Senior middle blocker Darian Dozier ranks 11th in blocks per set (1.00).
• Freshman setter Aubrey Ezell ranks seventh in assists (332) and ninth in assists per set (10.06).

When Carolina Wins
• The Gamecocks out-hit opponents .277-.130.
• Carolina out-digs opponents 15.9-13.1 per set.
• The Gamecocks have out-blocked opponents 34-21 in total blocks and 2.3-1.4 in blocks per set.
• Carolina has recorded 22 of its 25 service aces, averaging 1.5 per set.

When Carolina Loses
• Carolina’s opponents hold a .282-.154 advantage in hitting percentage.
• Opponents out-dig the Gamecocks 15.4-13.6.
• The Gamecocks still hold a minor edge in blocks (36-30) and blocks per set (2.0-1.7).
• Carolina has committed 33 service errors to just 11 aces and have a serve percentage of .907.

Records Watch
• Senior middle blocker Darian Dozier continues to climb the school’s career records list for block assists and total blocks. Dozier currently ranks sixth all-time in block assists (321) and eighth in total blocks (354). Over the weekend, she passed Lori Drost (349; 1994-97) in total blocks.

A Long-Awaited Homestand
• This weekend’s tournament will be the team’s first match at the Carolina Volleyball Center since opening the regular season with the Gamecock Invitational. When the team kicks off against East Carolina on Friday, it will have been 20 days between home matches.
• The two road tournaments prior to this marked the longest road stretch of the season for the team.
• A trio of regional rivalries will be on display at the Carolina Classic, when East Carolina, Charleston Southern and Wofford all arrive for the two-day, round-robin tournament. It will be the first-ever meeting with Wofford, and renews a series with the other two that have been long-dormant (last facing Charleston Southern in 1998 and East Carolina in 1983).

Scouting East Carolina
• The Pirates went 15-16 overall in 2014, including a 6-14 record that was good for ninth overall in the AAC.
• They enter the weekend with a 6-2 overall record, with the two losses coming to Davidson (3-2) and Western Carolina (3-1)
• Of their six wins, five have come in three sets and one has come in five.
• ECU returns 12 players from the 2014 season and welcomes in five newcomers
• The Pirates rank second in the AAC in hitting percentage (.268) and have the top hitting percentage defense by a healthy margin (.137) as well as the most aces per set (1.83). It also has done well limiting blocks by opponents, leading the conference with just 1.45 blocks allowed per set.
• The team has not relied on one heavy hitter, but rather has a quartet of offensive options. Ashton Mares leads the team with 91 kills, but is followed closely by Kierra Lee-Dunson (80), Ashley McRae (79) and Natalie Montini (77). The four have 84 percent of the team’s total kills.
• McRae and Lee-Dunson rank eighth and ninth, respectively, in hitting percentage among AAC teams.
• Setter Sabrina Gonzalez is averaging 10.62 assists and 1.83 digs per set. Her assist average puts her third overall in the AAC.
• Libero Erika Figueroa averages (5.45) digs per set and has a .939 serve reception percentage. Her digs put her third overall in the conference rankings.

Series History vs. ECU
• Friday’s matchup will be the ninth between the Gamecocks and Pirates.
• Carolina leads the all-time series 7-2, winning the last three matches.
• The two teams last met on Nov. 12, 1983, when the Gamecocks won 3-0.

Scouting Charleston Southern
• Charleston Southern returns all six starters and libero from last season’s campaign, where the team went 11-22 and 1-13 in the Big South.
• So far this season, the team is 3-9 and are in the midst of a five-match losing streak. Of that stretch, three losses have come in five sets.
• Despite their record, the Buccaneers have been one of the top team defenses in the Big South, holding opponents to just a .168 hitting percentage, the best among conference rivals.
• Offensively the team runs through senior middle blocker Meredith Parrott and freshman outside hitter Addison Kaderli. Each have over 100 kills through 12 matches and Parrott is hitting .289 overall, eighth-best in the Big South.
• Senior setter Cassidy Greer is averaging 7.0 assists and 2.02 digs per set.

Series History vs. The Bucs
• Saturday’s meeting will be the seventh all-time between Carolina and Charleston Southern.
• The Gamecocks lead the all-time series 6-0 and have not lost a single set to the Buccaneers in any previous meeting.
• In the most recent meeting, the Gamecocks swept CSU 3-0 on Sept. 1, 1998.

Scouting Wofford
• The Terriers return five starters and the libero from last year’s squad that went 13-22 overall and 4-12 in the Southern Conference.
• Their only lost starter was an important piece though, as Taylor Baird was a two-time All-Conference honoree and finished her career ranked sixth in kills in program history and played in more matches than any player in program history (129).
• Wofford enters the tournament with a 5-6 record, including three straight losses. The Terriers have been road warriors, playing every match so far on the road. They will not play at home until Sept. 29, in their 17th game of the season.
• Sophomore outside hitters Alex Holland and Bella Santoro lead the team in kills so far this season, with 105 and 112, respectively. Santoro ranks eighth in the SOCON in kills per set (2.92).
• A stat to watch for the team this weekend will be while they serve. Wofford ranks first in the SOCON in service aces, averaging 1.61 per set. Three Terriers (Lauren Miller, Alex Holland, Molly Mayo) rank in the top eight individually in the conference.
• Sophomore setter Molly Mayo has guided the offense so far this season, averaging 10.24 assists per set to go with 2.21 digs per set and 12 service aces.
• Mayo’s former high school teammate Colleen Reilly joins her on the team this season and has already emerged as a top net defender. Her 24 total blocks are tied for the team lead, and her 0.80 blocks per set ranks tenth in the SOCON.

Series History vs. Wofford
• Saturday’s matchup will be the first between the Gamecocks and Terriers.

Doing Work in the Classroom and the Community
• South Carolina had a league-best 12 volleyball players on the 2014 SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll.
• The Gamecocks earned the AVCA Team Academic Award for the 2014-15 school year with a cumulative team GPA of 3.34. Carolina has earned the honor four-straight years.
• The volleyball program was also among the top community service teams in terms of hours at South Carolina last year. The Gamecocks compiled a total of 480.5 community service hours, which breaks down to 28.26 hours per player.
• Throughout the 2014-15 school year, the Gamecocks gave back to 25 different events and organizations.

Coming Home
• Former Gamecock great Shonda Cole is in her first season as a full-time assistant coach after serving as volunteer assistant last year.
• Cole played at South Carolina from 2003-06 and became the first Gamecock to earn All-America honors, earning a spot on the AVCA Honorable Mention All-America Team in 2006.
• She had a successful professional career, playing one season in Spain, six in Puerto Rico and a half season in France.
• Cole won a league championship with Pinkin de Corozal in 2010 and was named finals MVP after leading Indias de Mayaguez to the league title in 2013.

All-Time Records
• South Carolina holds a 758-587 (.563) record.
• The Gamecocks are 168-226 (.426) in SEC play.
• In matches played at the Carolina Volleyball Center, South Carolina is 167-91 (.647).