Oct. 9, 2015
COLUMBIA, S.C. – The South Carolina volleyball team returns home Friday night for a critical SEC matchup, as it hosts Auburn at 7 p.m. at the Carolina Volleyball Center. On Sunday, the team will also welcome in Texas A&M, playing a 1 p.m. match. Both will air nationally on the SEC Network.
For fans, admission to both matches is completely free of charge. The CVC will also have reduced concessions, and the Athletics Department has partnered with United Way to collect donations for relief efforts. Concessions will be operational for all events but on a limited basis due to the boil water advisory. Bottled water and soda are available and all concession items will be just $2. Because the water fountains will not be available, fans are welcome to bring in their own unopened bottled water for this weekend’s events.
Also, on Sunday, United Way Midlands will be at the match collecting donations. They will have a truck outside the student entrance and will be there from noon to 1:30.
Scouting Auburn (10/9)
â€¢ Now in his fifth year at Auburn, head coach Rick Nold’s Tigers enter the weekend at 10-5 overall, 2-1 in the SEC with wins over Tennessee and LSU at home.
â€¢ The team returns all six starters and libero from 2014, when it finished 13-18 and 5-13 in the SEC.
â€¢ The team has a very diverse offense, with four different hitters sitting with 130 kills or more through its first 15 matches. Brenna McIlroy leads the attack with 171 kills (2.90 per set). Four Tigers average 2.50 points per set or better, with McIlroy’s 3.36 mark also tops.
â€¢ The team ranks 11th in the SEC in hitting percentage (at .198) but are fourth in opponent hitting percentage (.174). That comes from a solid back line of the defense, which puts up 15.80 digs per set (third best in the SEC). It has made up for the fact that Auburn only averages 1.92 blocks per set (12th in the SEC).
Series History vs. The Tigers
â€¢ Sunday will be the 38th meeting between Carolina and Auburn, with the Gamecocks ahead 22-15.
â€¢ Auburn has won seven of the last 10 matches, and the Gamecocks have not won at the CVC over the Tigers since the 2011 season.
â€¢ In the most recent meeting, the Tigers won 3-2 after the two teams traded off the first four sets. An 8-0 run in the fifth set would be the difference for Auburn. Koko Atoa-Williams recorded her team-leading ninth double-double of the season, matching her career high with 18 kills and adding 10 digs.
Scouting Texas A&M (10/11)
â€¢ The Aggies are in year 23 under the direction of Laurie Corbelli, and are coming off a 21-9 record in 2014 (13-5 SEC). The team made the NCAA tournament but did not make it out of the first round.
â€¢ A&M returns all six starters and its libero from 2014, and added five newcomers to the roster.
â€¢ Of those six starters back on campus, three were AVCA All-Americans from 2014 (Shelby Sullivan, Stephanie Aiple, Jazzmin Babers).
â€¢ The team is currently 2-1 in conference and enters the weekend coming off two sweeps at Auburn and at home versus Ole Miss. Its lone loss came at home in four sets to Arkansas.
â€¢ Both Babers (3rd) and Sullivan (7th) rank in the top ten for hitting percentage among SEC athletes, at .412 and .381, respectively. Babers also ranks second in the conference in blocks, averaging 1.45 per set and 77 total (12 solo).
â€¢ In the team rankings for the SEC, the Aggies rank third in kills and hitting percentage, at 743 and .272, respectively, but are worst in the conference in opponent hitting percentage, allowing .224. They also rank last in the SEC in aces and are the only team to not average at least one ace per set.
â€¢ To add perspective to how strong the Aggies are with their in-system offense, primary setter Stephanie Aiple ranks third in the SEC at 11.12 assists per set despite the fact that secondary setter Kaysie Shebeneck is averaging 8.88 assists per set on her own.
Series History vs. The Aggies
â€¢ Friday will be the eighth meeting all-time between the two relatively new rivals.
â€¢ Carolina’s lone win in the series came at home in 2013, the Aggies have never dropped a set over three matches at College Station.
â€¢ In the most recent meeting, the Aggies edged out Carolina 3-2 in Columbia. They entered the match ranked 20th in the country, but the Gamecocks earned a 2-1 lead before dropping the final two sets (including 15-13 in the fifth).
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 were Carolina’s most during under Swanson and the most since 2008 (12).
â€¢ The Gamecocks return 10 letter winners from 2014, including five who started 10 or more matches (Koko Atoa-Williams, Darian Dozier, Sarah Blomgren, Jacqy Angermiller, Megan Kirkland).
â€¢ The Gamecocks’ roster is 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.
A Win Today Would…
â€¢ Snap a five-match losing streak. The last time the team started the conference season 0-4 was in 2011; it would start off 0-8 before beating Ole Miss 3-1 on the road.
â€¢ Be head coach Scott Swanson’s 69th win at South Carolina. It would bring him into a tie with Kathy Graham (1976-77) for third-most in program history.
â€¢ Be Carolina’s first home win over Auburn since 2011. The team won 3-1 at the CVC on Nov. 18, 2011, behind a pair of double-doubles from Taylor Bruns and Juliette Thevenin.
Recapping Mississippi State (10/4)
â€¢ In one of the most memorable matches in series history, the South Carolina volleyball team dropped a tight five-set match at Mississippi State Sunday, 25-23, 13-25, 25-23, 20-25, 15-13. The loss drops the Gamecocks to 7-10 (0-4 SEC) while the Bulldogs (12-5, 2-2 SEC) evened their conference record.
â€¢ Sarah Blomgren had a career day, as the senior outside hitter put down 20 kills to lead the offense. It is the third time this season that she hit double-digit kills along with a hitting percentage over .525. Blomgren’s 20-kill performance marks the fifth time this season that the Gamecocks have had a hitter with 20 or more kills. Dessaa Legros had the previous four. Her new career-high of 20 kills surpasses her 17 that came against Georgia last season.
â€¢ As a team, the Gamecocks finished with 80 digs. It’s a new season high, and the most since Nov. 23, 2014 at Georgia.
â€¢ Koko Atoa-Williams (10 kills, 15 digs) and Aubrey Ezell (49 assists, 13 digs) both finished with double-doubles. For Ezell, it is her 11th of the season, moving her into a tie for 20th in program history for most double-doubles in a single season. It was Koko’s second double-double this season.
â€¢ The Gamecocks lost despite owning a .262 – .157 advantage in hitting percentage. It was the first time since Sept. 7, 2013 (vs. Winthrop) that the team out-hit the opponent in a loss.
Recapping Ole Miss (10/2)
â€¢ The South Carolina volleyball team lost at Ole Miss (15-3, 1-2 SEC) Friday night, yielding in four tough sets. Dessaa Legros led the Gamecocks (7-9, 0-3 SEC) with 18 kills, but a balanced Rebel attack saw four different hitters record double digit kills.
â€¢ Ole Miss had four players with ten kills or more in the match, led by Ty Laporte’s 15. A native of Irmo, S.C., Laporte hit for .583 in the match.
â€¢ Aubrey Ezell finished with five aces in the match, becoming the first Gamecock since Cara Howley in October of 2012 to have five or more in a single match
â€¢ Friday was Dessaa Legros’ fifth game of the season with 15 or more kills in a match. It snaps a three-match stretch where she only averaged 4.67 kills per match and battled a sore hitting wrist.
â€¢ Aside from her career best in aces, Ezell also went for a new best with 50 assists. She is the first Carolina setter since Kellie McNeil in October of 2013 to break the 50-assist barrier.
Over the Last Five Matches…
â€¢ The Gamecocks are 0-5, with four of those losses coming in conference play
â€¢ Sarah Blomgren leads the team with 54 kills (2.84 per set).
â€¢ Aubrey Ezell is averaging 9.11 assists and 0.58 aces per set
â€¢ The team is hitting .165 while allowing opponents to hit .228
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 17 matches, Legros has 204 kills and is averaging 3.46 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 .192 success rate despite an exponentially higher amount of swings.
â€¢ It isn’t just her offense that has come around, she is also seeing career numbers on the receiving end. Her 19 total blocks through 16 matches is just one off the combined total from 2013 and 2014, and her 97 digs in 59 sets (1.64 per set) is already 44 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 17 matches. Her efforts have alredy been recognized on the conference level twice, earning SEC Setter of the Week on Sept. 21 and Oct. 5.
â€¢ On the road against Ole Miss, she went for a new best with 50 assists. She is the first Carolina setter since Kellie McNeil in October of 2013 to break the 50-assist barrier.
â€¢ At Mississippi State two days later, she recorded her 11th double-double of the season, putting her into the top 20 in program history for a single season. With just one more this season, Ezell would become the first Gamecock since Taylor Bruns in 2012 to have 12 or more in a single season.
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 17 matches this season she has hit .300 or better seven times. Against Mississippi State on Oct. 4, she went for a career-high 20 kills and hit .545 in the five-set loss. It was the third-best hitting percentage in program history for a five-setter.
When Carolina Wins
â€¢ The Gamecocks out-hit opponents .280-.117. The team is 6-1 when committing fewer hitting errors.
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 .255-.160 advantage in hitting percentage.
â€¢ Opponents hold a minor edge in blocks (70.5-69) and blocks per set (1.91-1.86).
â€¢ Carolina has committed 72 service errors to just 36 aces, the opposition has 47 aces with 71 errors.
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 480.5 community service hours, 28.26 hours per player.
â€¢ Through the 2014-15 school year, the Gamecocks gave back to 25 different events or organizations.
â€¢ Senior Sarah Blomgren was recently featured on the SEC Network 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 volunteers and places them in community development or wildlife/ecosystem preservation work.
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 fifth all-time in block assists (340) and seventh in total blocks (378). Against Mississippi State, she passed Belita Salters (2005-08) for seventh in total blocks, and she enters the weekend just four assists from moving into a tie for fourth in the category.
Double-Double the Trouble
â€¢ Aubrey Ezell recorded her 11th double-double of the season Sunday against Mississippi State, putting her into the top 20 in program history for a single season. With just one more this season, Ezell would become the first Gamecock since Taylor Bruns in 2012 to have 12 or more in a single season.
â€¢ Also against MSU, Koko-Atoa Williams recorded her 13th career double-double. The duo are on the cusp of entering the top 20 in career double-doubles, needing 16 to match Katie Gerst (1992-94).
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€¢ Professionally, she played 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 761-589 (.564) record as a program, dating back to its first season in 1973.
â€¢ The Gamecocks are 168-229 (.424) in SEC play. The team joined the conference in 1991.
â€¢ In matches played at the Carolina Volleyball Center, South Carolina is 170-93 (.646).
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 wins leader, with 226.