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Nov. 5, 2015

AUBURN, ALA. – The South Carolina volleyball team heads out on the road for a pair of matches in the Heart of Dixie this weekend, starting Friday at Auburn before a Sunday afternoon match against Alabama. The Gamecocks already matched up with the Tigers at home on Oct. 9, Sunday will be the first matchup with the Crimson Tide this season.

Friday: at Auburn, 7 p.m. | SEC Network+ |
Sunday: at Alabama, 3 p.m. | SEC Network |
On Twitter: @GamecockVolley
Match Notes Get Acrobat Reader

Scouting Auburn (11/6)
– Now in his fifth year at Auburn, head coach Rick Nold’s Tigers enter the weekend at 12-10 overall, 4-6 in the SEC with key wins over Tennessee and LSU. Auburn is 7-3 at home for the season, three of those wins against conference opponents. The team enters Friday on a three-match losing streak, with all three coming in five-set decisions on the road.
– The team returns all six starters and libero from 2014, when it finished 13-18 and 5-13 in the SEC.
– The team has a very diverse offense, with three different hitters with over 200 kills through its first 22 matches. Brenna McIlroy leads the attack with 238 kills (2.70 per set), but it was Emily Klitzke that vexed Carolina in the first meeting. She totaled 14 kills with a .545 hitting percentage from the outside to lead the Tigers.
– The team ranks 10th in the SEC in hitting percentage (at .201) but are fifth in opponent hitting percentage (.185). That comes from a solid back line of the defense, which puts up 15.77 digs per set (second best in the SEC). It has made up for the fact that Auburn only averages 1.86 blocks per set (13th in the SEC).

Series History vs. The Tigers
– Friday will be the 39th meeting between Carolina and Auburn, with the Gamecocks ahead 22-16.
– Auburn has won eight of the last 10 matches overall in the series, and two of the last three at home.
– In the most recent meeting, Auburn swept the Gamecocks at home on Oct. 9. It would be a tight match, with the Tigers only outscoring Carolina by nine points total and prevailing in straight sets, 25-23, 25-20, 31-29. Koko Atoa-Williams led the team with a season-high 16 kills.

Scouting Alabama (11/8)
– Head coach Ed Allen and the Crimson Tide enter the weekend at 11-13 overall, 5-5 in the SEC with key wins over Missouri and Arkansas. Three of those five conference wins have come in five sets.
– The team returns all six starters and libero from 2014, when it finished 26-8 and 13-5 in the SEC.
– Despite the team’s overall record, Alabama remains one of the top offenses in the nation, let alone the SEC. Led by outside hitter Kat Hutson (3.54 kills per set) and Krystal Rivers (3.54) through the middle, the Crimson Tide rank third in the SEC behind only Florida and Texas A&M in kills per set.
– Rivers, Hutson and setter Sierra Wilson are all coming off 2014 AVCA All-America honors. Rivers made third team, while Hutson and Wilson were honorable mention.

Series History vs. The Crimson Tide
– Sunday will be the 45th meeting between Carolina and Alabama, with the Tide leading 26-18.
– Alabama has won three straight in the series and is 4-1 at home since 2008.
– In the most recent meeting, the Tide won 3-2 in Columbia almost a year to the date, Nov. 9, 2014. After falling behind 2-0 in the match, Carolina rallied to force a fifth set but came up short. Koko Atoa-Williams recorded double-double with 14 kills and 12 digs, and matched her career-high with four blocks. Kat Hutson (26) and Krystal Rivers (29) combined for 55 of Alabama’s 75 total kills.

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 were Carolina’s most during under Swanson and the most since 2008 (12).
– 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).
– Nine states – California (2), Florida (1), Georgia (1), Maryland (1), Missouri (1), Nevada (1), North Carolina (1), South Carolina (2), Texas (5) – and Puerto Rico (1) are represented on the 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, with fellow freshman Madison Borowski also available to set.
– 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 Ole Miss (11/1)
– The Gamecock volleyball team continued their late-season surge Sunday afternoon, winning their third match in the last five outings with a 3-0 sweep of Ole Miss, 26-24, 25-21, 26-24. Senior Sarah Blomgren finished with 15 kills to drive the offense. Blomgren now has hit double-digit kills in six straight matches and has six 15-kill performances. In her last five matches, she is leading the team with 3.78 kills per set and is hitting .314.
– The Gamecocks were able to win in the serve-receive game, recording six aces with just eight errors. Ole Miss, who entered the match averaging a SEC-best 1.65 aces per set, had just four aces against Carolina while committing nine errors.
– Kirkland continues to play strong since taking over the role of libero. In the six matches since earning the job, she is averaging 4.26 digs per set and has a serve reception percentage of .968.
– In her return after missing the match against Florida, Darian Dozier had six kills with a pair of blocks. She now moves into a tie for third in school history in block assists, with 358.
– This is the second straight win where the team has been outhit by the opposition. Before the win over Arkansas, the team was 0-12 when hitting at a lower percentage.

Recapping Florida (10/30)
– The South Carolina volleyball team closed out the month of October against the 12th-ranked Florida Gators Friday night. The short-handed Gamecocks would lose in straight sets, 25-22, 25-14, 25-21, and move to 9-14 overall and 2-8 in the SEC this season. Florida has now won seven straight.
– Playing without starting middle blockers Jacqy Angermiller and Darian Dozier, the Gamecocks relied on Dessaa Legros and Sarah Blomgren to carry the offense. The two would combine for 21 of the team’s 38 total kills for the night.
– The Gators hit .440 for the match, committing just seven hitting errors overall. It was the highest opponent hitting percentage allowed by the Gamecocks all season, surpassing the previous high of .321 set by Michigan on Sept. 11. The Gamecocks have only allowed four opponents to hit over .300 in a match all season long.
– Without its two leading blockers, the Gamecocks would record just one block in the match, a season low.
– Freshman Jesse Turner earned her first career start, filling in at middle blocker. She finished with three kills, a pair of blocks and a block assist.

Over the Last Five Matches…
– The Gamecocks are 3-2, all in conference play.
Sarah Blomgren leads the team with 68 kills (3.78 per set) and is hitting .314.
– As a team, Carolina has been out-hit .238-.211 by opponents, but averages 1.6 more kills per set.
Aubrey Ezell is averaging 11.94 assists and 0.67 aces per set.
Megan Kirkland has come on strong as the team’s libero, averaging 4.28 digs per set and a .958 serve reception rate over 96 chances.

“State”ing their Case
– After earning wins over fellow South Carolina schools Wofford and Charleston Southern in the Carolina Classic, the Gamecocks are now 4-2 against in-state rivals this season.
– The Gamecocks are 119-57 all-time against in-state school, and do not have a losing record against any individual opponent.

Legros Enjoying Breakout Year
– 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 24 matches, Legros has 294 kills (3.46 per set). To contrast that, she had 187 kills in 47 matches over her first two seasons with the team (1.62 kills/set).
– Against Tennessee, Dessaa hit 22 kills on the day, her fifth 20-kill game of the season. If you add up her total from those four matches (103), it is 47 more than she had over 18 matches as a sophomore.
– It isn’t just her offense that has come around, she is also seeing career numbers on the receiving end. Her 28 total blocks through 24 matches is eight more than the combined total from 2013 and 2014, and her 157 digs in 85 sets (1.85 per set) is almost three times as many as she had over the 115 sets as a freshman and sophomore.

Set it and Forget it
– 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 24 matches. Her efforts have alredy been recognized on the conference level three times, earning SEC Setter of the Week on Sept. 21 and Oct. 5 and Freshman of the Week on Oct. 19.
– On the road against Tennessee, she went for a new best with 62 assists. The last time a Gamecock setter had 60 or more in a match was on Sept. 14, 2007, when Jordan Bradosky had 60 vs. Auburn.
– Against Arkansas, she recorded her 14th double-double of the season. She is now tied for 10th in program history for a single season, with Juliette Thévenin (2011) and Katie Gerst (1994) also at 14.

“Bloms” Away
– 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. She hit .217 as a junior in 2014, but through 24 matches this season she has hit .300 or better ten times and has a season average of .266.
– Against Ole Miss, Sarah finished with 15 kills to drive the offense. Entering Friday, she has hit double-digit kills in six straight matches and has six 15-kill performances. In her last five matches, she is leading the team with 3.78 kills per set and is hitting .314.
– 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
– Six wins have come in three sets, three in four sets and one (Arkansas) in five.
– The Gamecocks out-hit opponents .260-.140. The team is 8-1 when out-hitting the opposition.
– Carolina out-digs opponents 16.69-14.20 per set and averages 3.5 more kills per set.
– The Gamecocks have out-blocked opponents 75-65 in total blocks and 2.14-1.86 in blocks per set.
– Carolina has 50 service aces, averaging 1.43 per set.

When Carolina Loses
– Carolina’s opponents hold a .263-.174 advantage in hitting percentage.
– The Gamecocks allow almost two kills and a dig more per set. The team has not won yet this season when being out-dug (0-10).
– Carolina has committed 114 service errors to just 55 aces, the opposition has 64 aces with 98 errors.

Doing Work in the Classroom and the Community
– South Carolina had a league-best 12 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 480.5 community service hours, 28.26 hours per player.
– Through the 2014-15 school year, the Gamecocks gave back to 25 different events or organizations.
– 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.
– After the recent storm that flooded the midlands of South Carolina, the team joined others from the Athletics Department to give their time to help others. The group spent time at NewSpring Church, processing food donations and helping load bottles of water. In just the first few days after the storm, student-athletes across all sports combined for over 900 hours of community service.

Bull “Doz”Ing Her way Through the Record Books
Senior middle blocker Darian Dozier is steadily climbing the school’s career records list in blocks. Dozier ranks third all-time in block assists (358) and sixth in total blocks (397). Against Ole Miss, she tied Amy Collinsworth (1990-93) for third in block assists.

Double-Double the Trouble
Aubrey Ezell recorded her 13th double-double of the season Sunday against Texas A&M, putting her into the top 12 in program history for a single season. With just one more this season, Ezell would move into a tie for 10th most in a single season.
– Against Mississippi State, Koko-Atoa Williams recorded her 13th career double-double. The duo are on the cusp of the top 20 in career double-doubles, needing 16 to match Katie Gerst (1992-94).

A SEC Anniversary
The Gamecocks celebrated a special anniversary on Sunday, Oct. 11 against Texas A&M. It was the program’s 400th SEC match of all time, dating back to 1991. In the ensuing years, the team has won double-digit conference matches in six of those seasons and made the NCAA tournament six times as well. The team’s best finish ever came in 2002 under coach Kim Hudson, when it went 14-2 and finished second in the SEC East.

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.
– Professionally, she played 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 764-596 (.563) record as a program, dating back to its first season in 1973.
– In matches played at the Carolina Volleyball Center, South Carolina is 172-94 (.646).
– With 71 career wins, head coach Scott Swanson ranks third in program history for wins. Versus Arkansas, he broke a tie with Kathy Graham (1976-77) for third all-time. Kim Hudson (1993-2004) is the program’s wins leader, with 226.

South Carolina Honors Its “First 18”
The Gamecocks are celebrating the history of its women athletes all through the week of Oct. 12. After the implementation of Title IX, South Carolina made 18 scholarships available for female student-athletes for the first time in school history in 1975, with three going to each of the six sports. The teams were also under the direction of the athletics department for the first time. Annette Gibson Lesher, Lee Branch Marks, and Cheryl Grindle were the volleyball program’s first recipients. That 1975 team would win 10 matches under the direction of head coach Vicki Hamilton.