Sept. 1, 2016
COLUMBIA, S.C. – Due to inclement weather forecasted for the Midlands for Friday night, South Carolina volleyball’s previously scheduled match at 7 p.m. against Clemson will be postponed until Sunday at 1:30 p.m.
The match was scheduled to be the first of three this weekend for the Gamecocks, as part of the Carolina Classic tournament with the Tigers, Furman and Winthrop. All of the Saturday matches will go on as planned, starting with Clemson versus Winthrop at 10 a.m. and running through South Carolina’s match against Winthrop at 7 p.m.
The new schedule for Sunday will be Furman versus Winthrop at 10:30 a.m. with the rivalry match between Carolina and Clemson to follow. For more information on the weekend tournament, go to GamecocksOnline.com and follow the team on Twitter (@GamecockVolley).
This will be the first weekend for the clear bag policy at the Carolina Volleyball Center, fans are reminded to arrive early and check out the information page for the policy before arriving to ensure an easy entrance to the gym ( Clear Bag Policy/FAQs).
Friday night’s match against the Tigers will be carried on the SEC Network + internet channel, with Derek Scott and RJ Abella on the call. The first 750 fans will receive a free rally towel, and the team is aiming to break the program’s all-time home attendance record, which currently stands at 1,807. Doors will open at 3:30 p.m. for general admission tickets, ahead of the Furman versus Winthrop match at 4:30. Students can arrive as early as 5:30 p.m. to get their cards scanned for the 7 p.m. match.
Clemson went 2-1 in its opening weekend as the host of the Orange Bash tournament, losing the opener to William & Mary before dropping High Point and Wofford on Saturday. The Tigers were led by Leah Perri, who finished with 60 kills on the weekend. Perri, a senior outside hitter, made the preseason All-ACC team after averaging 3.68 kills per set in 2015. Two of the team’s main question marks entering the season – its starting setter and libero – found answers in the form of Keely Hayes and Kennedy Wilson-Talmadge, respectively. Hayes averaged 10.64 assists per set and had 10 blocks in the first weekend, and Wilson-Talmadge finished with four aces and 55 digs (4.23 per set). Also on the defensive side of the court, Dejhana Cotton averaged 1.36 blocks per set last weekend, as the middle showed great upside after missing her true freshman season due to injury.
Furman poses a significant challenge to South Carolina, as the Paladins welcome back four starters and their libero from a 2015 team that made the NCAA tournament. The team opened its 2016 season with a road tournament at Auburn, and finished the weekend 1-2. After losing the opener 3-1 to Pacific, Furman rallied to upset the host Tigers in four sets. Closing out the weekend, they were swept by ACC foe Georgia Tech. A big reason for the team’s win over Auburn, and for the team’s success in general, is senior Annie Bierman. She had 15 kills against the Tigers, and finished the weekend with 35 total. She earned the Southern Conference’s Player of the Year honors in 2015 after pacing the conference in kills (467) and also recording 402 digs. The Paladins were named the conference’s preseason favorite to repeat as champions after closing last year with a 21-9 overall record.
The Eagles went 1-2 in the opening weekend of 2016, losing the UNC-Wilmington and Jacksonville before ending the tournament with a sweep of Davidson. Outside hitter Lourdes Rosario led the team with 46 kills over the weekend, including a high of 17 against Jacksonville. The team is relying on a young lineup, as the sophomore Rosario is joined by freshman setter Siani Yamaguchi, freshmen pins Sammie-Jo Al-Hong and Sydney Gunter, and redshirt middle Kelsey Schroll in the starting lineup. Winthrop finished 2015 with a 14-18 overall record.
COLLEGE OF CHARLESTON INVITATIONAL NOTABLES
- The Gamecocks finished with 15 blocks in the win over College of Charleston, the most total blocks in a three-set match since November of 2005 (vs. Winthrop), and the fourth-most in a three-setter in program history. Of those 15 blocks, nine were solo, which ties the program record for a three-set match (set against Mercer in 2005).
- Jacqy Angermiller’s three solo blocks vs. the Cougars are a new career best for the senior. Her previous high was two, against Winthrop last season.
- The South Carolina offense hit .372 over the three games vs. Tennessee-Martin and five players with five or more kills. That team hitting percentage is the highest since Nov. 20, 2015 against Mississippi State.
- Aubrey Ezell finished the Binghamton match with 22 assists and 10 digs. It was her first double-double of the season, but the 19th of her career. She passed Shani Abshier (1994-97) and moved into 17th place in program history for the category.
- Mikayla Shields’ .522 hitting percentage against Binghamton marks the first time since Oct. 4, 2015 that a Gamecock hit over .500 in a match with at least 10 kills.
SHIELDS NAMED SEC FRESHMAN OF THE WEEK
The first Southeastern Conference weekly awards were released for volleyball Monday afternoon, and outside hitter Mikayla Shields was recognized as the Freshman of the Week after earning MVP honors at the College of Charleston Invitational. She hit .403 for the weekend and finished with 33 kills and nine blocks. She finished the weekend ranked eighth in the SEC in kills per set (3.67), eighth in hitting percentage (.403) and 12th in blocks per set (1.0), making her the only freshman to be ranked in each of those three categories.
LOOK WHO’S BACK
- The Gamecocks return 54.4 percent (797) of their kills from last season. Senior outside hitter Dessaa Legros returns after leading the team with 349 kills in 31 matches (3.14 per set). Fellow seniors Koko Atoa-Williams and Jacqy Angermiller ranked fourth and fifth on the team in kills in 2015, respectively.
- Thanks to the return of SEC All-Freshman setter Aubrey Ezell, the Gamecocks return 1341 of the team’s total 1362 assists in 2015. Ezell finished her freshman season with 1167 assists, the second-most in the rally-scoring era (since 2001).
- With the team’s top six players in digs returning, the defense will be an area of strength for the team in 2016 – 89 percent of the total digs in 2015 were from players returning for this season. Seniors Megan Kirkland and Joely Cabrera, and sophomore Emma Lock all saw major minutes at libero and will vye for the starting role early on this season.
- The loss of Darian Dozier in the middle will be felt, but the Gamecocks have plenty of athleticism to fill the void. Jacqy Angermiller averaged just under one block per set last season as a middle, and pins like Abreia Epps and Dessaa Legros have shown the leaping ability needed to make a difference on the outside.
The South Carolina volleyball program welcomed in six new players for the 2016 season. The five freshmen hail from four different states and are all expected to contribute in all areas in the first season on campus and add valuable depth:
- Claire Edwards is a middle blocker from right down the road from campus at River Bluff High School. She was coached there by former Gamecocks great Cindy Robarge-Esposito. Edwards was admitted to Carolina in time for the Spring semester, giving her a chance to work with the coaching staff during the exhibition season.
- Courtney Koehler is a talented setter who will join with Aubrey Ezell to give the offense a unique look. She won the AAU National Championship with her club volleyball team over the summer, after finishing her high school career with over 1500 assists.
- Savannah Murray signed with the team in February and will compete for a spot as a defensive specialist/libero. She was a PrepVolleyball Academic All-American and helped her high school team win three district titles and three conference titles.
- Mikayla Shields could make the largest impact of this class in 2016. The outside hitter swings from the left side and comes to Carolina as the 36th-ranked player in the 2015 Max Prep’s Senior Aces Top 100.
- Alicia Starr will reunite with former club teammate Emma Lock here at South Carolina. She ranks second in Missouri high school history for career attacks, and she averaged 6.5 kills per set as a senior. Starr will compete for time as an outside/right side hitter.
- Joining the five freshmen will be Abreia Epps, an outside hitter who transferred from UNC-Charlotte. Epps finished 2015 with 280 kills while recording 45 total blocks and 40 digs as a front row player. Those numbers earned her All-Conference USA Second Team honors, and now the Columbia native will return home to help take the Gamecocks to the next level.
The 2016 Gamecocks have an athleticism that head coach Scott Swanson and his staff are excited about. It’s no surprise, once you look at the team’s family history. Many of the players have siblings, parents, and other family members who have competed at the Division I level in athletics, and some have even gone on to have professional athletic careers:
- Mother swam at St. John’s University
- Three cousins played in Division I for softball, diving and volleyball)
- Uncle is Frank Viola, a major league baseball pitcher for Minnesota, Boston, and the New York Mets
- Her brother played football at Presbyterian College
- Older sister Kerstin played volleyball at College of Charleston
- Her twin sister Annayka currently plays volleyball at Coastal Carolina
- Her uncle, Andy Lock, played football at Missouri. Currently, her cousin Drew is the Tigers’ quarterback
- Her parents were track and field stars at the University of Pittsburgh.
- Her mother, Najuma, still holds the school record in the high jump, pentathlon and heptathlon. She competed professionally for Guyana and competed at the 1992 Olympics and at the 1995 IAAF World Championships
- Her father, Brett, ran on the program’s fastest Sprint Medley Relay team
- Her father, Brett, played football, basketball and track at Oregon State
- Her mother, Julie, was a gymnast for the University of Vermont
- Sister Brianna is currently a senior on the University of Missouri-Kansas City volleyball team
- Her mother, Lesli, played volleyball at Pepperdine
- Her father, Rob, played football at Eastern Michigan
- Her uncle, Roman Fortin, played in the NFL for three different franchises
COLE NAMED TO SOUTH CAROLINA ATHLETICS HALL OF FAME
Current South Carolina assistant head coach Shonda Cole was revealed as a member of the nine-member South Carolina Athletics Hall of Fame class of 2016. She becomes just the third woman from the program to make the Hall of Fame, joining Ashley Edlund-Heidtke (1995-98, inducted in 2010) and Heather Larkin (1994-97, inducted in 2012).
Cole became the first Gamecock volleyball player to earn All-America honors, and was also a three-time All-SEC honoree. Cole still holds the program’s career record for points per set, kills per set, and attacks. After an equally successful professional career, which included a stint with the national team, Cole has returned to her alma mater and begins her second season as an assistant.
QUOTABLE: HEAD COACH Scott Swanson
On the team’s weekend in Charleston
“”It was a good experience for everybody – we got a lot of freshmen time, we got sophomore some more experience, and we got to rest some seniors and juniors. I was very pleased with the results, and I’m glad that we did get challenged by some tough defensive teams that kept the ball alive and challenged us.”
- South Carolina holds a 767-600 (.561) record as a program, dating back to its first season in 1973.
- In matches played at the Carolina Volleyball Center, South Carolina is 174-95 (.648) all time.
- With 74 career wins, head coach Scott Swanson ranks third in program history for wins. Versus Arkansas on Oct. 25, 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.