Sept. 24, 2015
COLUMBIA, S.C. – The SEC season will get underway for Gamecock volleyball this weekend, and the program will be in the national spotlight right away. Carolina will host #24 Kentucky Friday at 7 p.m. with the match set to air on the SEC Network. It will then cap the opening weekend with a road match at LSU, Sunday at 2 p.m. on SEC Network+.
Scouting Kentucky (9/25)
â€¢ Kentucky returns four starters and its libero from the 2014 team, which finished 27-6 overall (16-4 SEC). It finished the season ranked 17th in the country by the AVCA and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament before bowing out to Ohio State in four sets.
â€¢ So far this season, the team is 7-5 and are in the midst of a three-match win streak. It comes on the heels of a four-match losing streak where the team faced a pair of top-ten-ranked teams (USC and Illinois).
â€¢ Offensively, the team is led by outside hitter Darian Mack and middle blocker Kaz Brown. Mack leads the team with 146 but is struggling with just a .096 hitting percentage over 458 attacks. Brown is a tremendous two-way threat, with 3.02 kills per set (.344 hitting percentage) and 1.41 blocks per set. The sophomore was named the SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Week on Monday after averaging 2.62 blocks per set in wins over Xavier and Louisville. She recorded 13 total blocks against Louisville, a program record for the rally scoring era.
â€¢ Thanks in large part to Brown’s defensive contributions, the Wildcats rank second in the SEC in blocks per set, with 2.52 as a team. Also leading the way defensively is libero Ashley Dusek, who leads the conference with 4.91 digs per set.
Series History vs. The Wildcats
â€¢ Friday’s meeting will be the 50th all-time between Carolina and Kentucky.
â€¢ The Wildcats lead the series 31-18, and have taken the last six matches in the series and 18 of the last 20. Of Carolina’s 18 wins, 12 have come at home.
â€¢ In the most recent meeting, Kentucky won 3-1 on Sept. 28, 2014.
Scouting LSU (9/27)
â€¢ The Tigers return four starters and their libero from a 2014 team that finished 20-9 overall (14-4 SEC). They made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament, beating Oklahoma before losing to #16 Oregon, 3-1.
â€¢ LSU opens its season Wednesday night against Arkansas on ESPNU. It enters the conference season with a 4-7 overall record but a three-match win streak.
â€¢ A major factor behind the team’s slow start has been its hitting percentage. Heading into Wednesday, the team has a combined hitting percentage of just .143, the lowest in the SEC.
â€¢ Cati Leak and Katie Lindelow lead the way in kills, with 154 and 101, respectively. Leak’s average of 3.76 kills per set ranks third in the SEC. She also ranks sixth in service aces, with 16.
â€¢ The Gamecocks will be challenged by two of the top liberos in the conference this weekend, as it faces Haley Smith along with Kentucky’s Ashley Dusek. Smith ranks just behind Dusek with 4.76 digs per set.
â€¢ The Tigers will likely run out a pair of setters on Sunday. Cheyenne Wood and Lindsay Flory each are in the triple digits for assists through 11 matches, with Wood averaging 5.59 assists per set and Flory 3.71. This is Wood’s first run as a primary setter, as she and the freshman Flory fill in for Elly Ogle, who set for LSU last season but has not played in the last five matches.
Series History vs. The Tigers
â€¢ Friday’s meeting will be the 36th all-time between Carolina and LSU.
â€¢ The Tigers lead the series 22-13, and have won four straight and 11 of 12 against the Gamecocks. Carolina has not won at LSU since the 2003 season.
â€¢ In the most recent meeting, LSU won 3-1 on Nov. 29, 2014.
South Carolina at a Glance
â€¢ South Carolina enters its fifth season under the direction of head coach Scott Swanson.
â€¢ The Gamecocks went 17-14 overall and 7-11 in the SEC in 2014.
â€¢ The seven SEC wins are Carolina’s most during the Swanson era and the most since going 12-8 in 2008.
â€¢ 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, Megan Kirkland).
â€¢ The Gamecocks’ roster is made up of eight freshmen (seven true freshmen), six juniors, and three seniors.
â€¢ A total of nine states – California (2), Florida (2), Georgia (1), Maryland (1), Missouri (1), Nevada (1), North Carolina (1), South Carolina (2), Texas (5) – and Puerto Rico (1) are represented on the Gamecock roster.
Look Who’s Back
â€¢ 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.
â€¢ 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, with fellow freshman Madison Borowski also available to set.
â€¢ 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.
â€¢ 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 Coastal Carolina (9/22)
â€¢ The Gamecocks closed out the non-conference season Tuesday night, welcoming in another tough test with Coastal Carolina (8-4). The Chanticleers, a NCAA tournament team from a year ago, claimed the 3-1 victory, 25-15, 17-25, 25-15, 25-23. Dessaa Legros led the Gamecocks with 13 kills and Sarah Blomgren added 12 of her own.
â€¢ Freshman setter Aubrey Ezell proved why she was named the SEC’s setter of the week on Monday, passing out 38 assists with 10 more digs against the Chanticleers. She now has three straight double-doubles and nine for the season.
â€¢ Libero Joely Cabrera went over the 20-dig mark for the second time in the last three matches. She now has double-digit digs in each of the last four matches and has upped her average to 3.71 digs per set.
â€¢ The Chanticleers kept the Carolina defense off-balance in the match thanks to its strong service. The visitors totaled eight aces in the match, the most by any Gamecock opponent so far this season.
Recapping the Carolina Classic (9/18-19)
â€¢ The Gamecocks went 3-0 last weekend in the Carolina Classic, held at the Carolina VB Center. They dropped just one set over the weekend while beating East Carolina (3-0), Charleston Southern (3-1) and Wofford (3-0).
â€¢ The Gamecocks are now have series records of 8-2 against ECU, 7-0 against CSU and won their first-ever meeting with Wofford. Under coach Scott Swanson, Carolina is now 28-1 in home tournament matches.
â€¢ Against the Pirates, senior Sarah Blomgren hit a career-best .609 for the match, with 15 kills. Her kill total is just two off her career high of 17, which was recorded during a four-set match against Georgia last season. Dessaa Legros finished with 12 kills in just 18 swings and also recorded the third solo block of her career. Her .444 hitting percentage is a new season-best.
â€¢ In the Charleston Southern match, South Carolina defense held the Buccaneers to just a .054 hitting percentage for the match. It was the lowest percentage allowed all season, beating out the .080 recorded by N.C. Central on Aug. 29. Aubrey Ezell recorded her seventh double-double of the season after finishing with 48 assists and 16 digs. She also set a new career-best with five kills.
â€¢ To cap the weekend, the Gamecocks swept upstate rival Wofford thanks to a momentum-shifting effort from senior Darian Dozier. She put down seven kills in the second set, with four of those coming during an 8-0 run that gave the Gamecocks a commanding 17-4 lead. The team would ultimately win the set 25-14 and took the 2-0 lead in the match.
â€¢ The Gamecocks hit .284 as a team over the three matches during the Carolina Classic, but held their opponents to just a .099 percentage.
Carolina’s All-Tournament Accolades
â€¢ 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.
â€¢ 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.
â€¢ 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.
â€¢ At the Carolina Classic, a home tournament, senior Sarah Blomgren was named the MVP and Darian Dozier made the All-Tournament team. Blomgren recorded 41 kills over the three matches, and Dozier added 33 kills and five blocks.
“State”ing Their Case
â€¢ After earning wins over fellow South Carolina schools Wofford and Charleston Southern in the Carolina Classic, the Gamecocks are now 5-1 against in-state rivals this season.
â€¢ The Gamecocks are now 119-57 against South Carolina school in program history, and do not have a losing record against any individual opponent.
Legros Enjoying Breakout Year
â€¢ Junior outside hitter Dessaa Legros has been the team’s biggest breakout star of the 2015 season so far, rocketing past her freshman and sophomore season outputs. Through 13 matches, Legros has 172 kills and is averaging 3.74 kills per set. To contrast that, she had 187 kills in 47 matches over her first two seasons with the team (1.62 kills/set)
â€¢ Her increased kills have been a by-product of a higher swing percentage. After posting .111 and .104 attack percentages over her first two seasons, she is currently hitting with a .224 success rate.
â€¢ It isn’t just her offense that has come around, she is also seeing career numbers on the receiving end. Her 18 total blocks through 13 matches is just one off the combined total from 2013 and 2014, and her 73 digs in 46 sets (1.59 per set) is already 20 more than she had over the 115 sets as a freshman and sophomore.
Set it and Forget it
â€¢ The Gamecocks entered the 2015 season without a returning setter on the roster, but freshman Aubrey Ezell has played like a veteran through her first 13 matches. Her efforts were rewarded on Monday, Sept. 21 when she was named the SEC Setter of the Week. It came on the heels of her performance at the Carolina Classic, where she passed out 140 assists over three wins. Entering Friday, Aubrey has three straight double-doubles (assists and digs) and nine for the season.
â€¢ Senior outside hitter Sarah Blomgren is another Gamecock in the midst of a career year, and it is largely thanks to a focus on accuracy. In the Carolina Classic, Sarah finished with 41 kills in three matches, but hit a combined percentage of .474. She committed just five errors in 76 total attacks that weekend. She hit .217 as a junior in 2014, but through 13 matches this season she has hit .300 or better five times.
When Carolina Wins
â€¢ The Gamecocks out-hit opponents .280-.117.
â€¢ Carolina out-digs opponents 16.28-13.2 per set.
â€¢ The Gamecocks have out-blocked opponents 55-40 in total blocks and 2.2-1.6 in blocks per set.
â€¢ Carolina has 35 service aces, averaging 1.4 per set.
When Carolina Loses
â€¢ Carolina’s opponents hold a .271-.146 advantage in hitting percentage.
â€¢ Opponents out-dig the Gamecocks 15.27-13.95.
â€¢ The Gamecocks still hold a minor edge in blocks (43-40) and blocks per set (1.95-1.82).
â€¢ Carolina has committed 41 service errors to just 16 aces and have a serve percentage of .906.
â€¢ 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 (328) and eighth in total blocks (363). Against Coastal Carolina, she tied Jennifer Guess (1990-93) in career block assists.
Doing Work in the Classroom and the Community
â€¢ South Carolina had a league-best 12 players on the 2014 SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll.
â€¢ 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.
â€¢ 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.
â€¢ Throughout the 2014-15 school year, the Gamecocks gave back to 25 different events and organizations.
â€¢ Senior Sarah Blomgren was recently featured for her work this summer, spending four weeks with the International Student Volunteer organization in Costa Rica. ISV is a global volunteer organization that takes college students and other volunteers and places them in community development or wildlife/ecosystem preservation opportunities. In addition to building a road and working on the farm, Blomgren worked at the local elementary school and taught the children some English.
â€¢ Former Gamecock great Shonda Cole is in her first season as a full-time assistant coach after serving as volunteer assistant last year.
â€¢ 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.
â€¢ She had a successful professional career, playing one season in Spain, six in Puerto Rico and a half season in France.
â€¢ 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.
â€¢ South Carolina holds a 761-588 (.564) record as a program, dating back to its first season in 1973.
â€¢ The Gamecocks are 168-226 (.426) in SEC play. The team joined the conference in 1991.
â€¢ In matches played at the Carolina Volleyball Center, South Carolina is 170-92 (.649).
â€¢ With 68 career wins, head coach Scott Swanson ranks fourth in program history for wins. He is just one win away from matching Kathy Graham (1976-77) for third with 69. Kim Hudson (1993-2004) is the program’s winningest coach with 226 wins.