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Oct. 13, 2016


Friday: at Texas A&M, 7:30 p.m. ET | Live Stats | SEC Network+/WatchESPN
Sunday: at LSU, 2 p.m. ET | =””> Live Stats | ESPNU /WatchESPN
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COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS – The South Carolina volleyball team will hit the road for two matches out west this coming weekend, starting with Texas A&M on Friday night with a Sunday matinee at LSU to cap the trip. Both matches can be followed live, with the match with the Aggies airing on the SEC Network+/WatchESPN stream and Sunday’s game going national on ESPNU.

Texas A&M has not fallen far from its 2015 pace, when the Aggies captured the conference title with a 16-2 record. Entering Friday night’s match, the team is 10-6 with a 4-1 SEC mark and is receiving votes in the latest AVCA Top 25 rankings, despite playing just two home matches for the season to date. Five starters and the libero return from last season, highlighted by 2015 SEC Player of the Year Stephanie Aiple and All-SEC members Ashlie Reasor and Jazzmin Babers. Bolstering the trio is outside hitter Kiara McGee, who leads the team in points and averages 3.18 kills per set so far this season, and freshman Hollann Hans (2.81 kills, 1.65 digs per set). On defense, the Aggies rank second in the conference in blocks per set (2.75) and are holding opponents to a .166 hitting percentage this season.

The Tigers enjoyed a perfect weekend against Ole Miss and Georgia in its last two matches, which helped snapped a six-match losing streak. LSU stands at 7-10 overall and 2-4 in the SEC, and will play Florida on Friday before facing the Gamecocks in Baton Rouge Sunday afternoon. Four different players average two kills or more per set, led by outside hitter Gina Tillis (3.19). Tillis is also a stout two-way player, putting up 2.97 digs and 0.44 blocks per set. The Tigers as a team are one of the best in the SEC at keeping the ball alive, with a team average of 15 digs per set that ranks second in the conference. An achilles heel for the team has been accuracy on offense; LSU ranks 12th in hitting percentage at .195, and has hit just .165 through its first six conference games.


  • Georgia racked up 12 aces over four sets on Friday night — including seven in the fourth alone. It was a season-high for any Gamecock opponent, with the next closest being nine against UT-Martin. The last opponent to have 12 or more aces in a match was North Florida on Sept. 13, 2014.
  • Mikayla Shields finished with 14 kills and a .522 hitting percentage against Georgia. She now has five matches this season with double-digit kills and a hitting percentage over .500.
  • South Carolina hit just .030 as a team vs. Florida, its lowest of the season. Florida blocked 11 total attacks for the day, tied for the most by a Gamecock opponent this season.
  • Florida entered the match as the nation’s top hitting team, with a combined percentage of .336. The Gamecocks were able to hold the Gators to a .250 rate for the match Sunday.
  • The starting lineup had a different look against the Gators, with Abreia Epps and Courtney Koehler getting the start in place of Aubrey Ezell and Jacqy Angermiller, and Joely Cabrera in for Megan Kirkland at libero.
  • 15 players saw extended playing time for the Gamecocks against Florida, with Jesse Turner (two kills) and Courtney Furlong (four kills) playing most of the third set in the front row and Savannah Murray (two digs) stepping in to the back row.

The Gamecocks face one of the toughest conference schedules of any team in the SEC, with an 18-game slate that features two matches apiece against the top four teams in the conference – Florida, Kentucky, Missouri and Texas A&M. In the first month of the season, the Gamecocks’ eight scheduled opponents currently have a combined conference record of 30-15. No other team in the conference plays each of the top four twice this season.

The team has received a big lift from a trio of freshman at key positions this season:

  • Mikayla Shields leads the team with 2.95 kills per set, and his hitting an impressive .338 for the season despite hitting from the outside. So far this season, she has nine matches with double-digit kills and has hit over .500 seven times, and also earned SEC Freshman of the Week honors to go with tournament MVP recognition at the College of Charleston Invite and the Gamecock Invitational.
  • Courtney Koehler has stepped in as a setter in the team’s 6-2 offense and is averaging 4.41 assists and 1.44 digs per set while playing in every set so far this season, ending as the team’s top assister in six matches. On top of her setting skills, she has been a clutch server, with 10 aces and the team’s best serve percentage (seven errors in 217 attempts).
  • Alicia Starr had to earn her spot in the starting lineup mid-season, after being trained at an entirely different position than she played in club and high school. In her eight matches since moving into a starting role, she is averaging 1.39 kills and 1.32 blocks per set and is hitting .432. She has already made her mark on the program record books as well, as her four solo blocks vs. Davidson are the second-most in the program’s rally-scoring era (since 2001) and her 11 blocks vs. Kentucky are tied for the second-most in a four set match since 2001.


  • The team is out-hitting the opposition .302-.165, and have yet to lose this season when out-hitting opponents in a match (12-0).
  • The opposition averages 1.23 aces per set, compared to 1.53 for Carolina. The Gamecocks are 8-0 when finishing a match with more aces.
  • The Gamecocks average 2.61 blocks per set and have 34 solo blocks, compared to just 1.36 for opponents.
  • Freshman Mikayla Shields hits .372 in wins, compared to .197 in losses.


  • The offense is hitting just .158 in losses with two fewer kills per set on average, and the defense is allowing opponents to hit .268. None of Carolina’s four top attack leaders are hitting above .200 through the team’s four losses.
  • Serve reception has been the biggest x-factor in losses, as the Gamecocks are allowing two aces per set to opponents in the four matches, but only average 0.86 aces while holding serve.
  • Though the team is actually averaging more blocks per set in losses than in wins (2.71 to 2.61), opponents average 2.07 blocks per set in Gamecock losses.
  • The Gamecocks are just 1-3 this season when losing the first set.

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:

Courtney Furlong

  • 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

Courtney Koehler

  • Her brother played football at Presbyterian College
  • Older sister Kerstin played volleyball at College of Charleston

Dessaa Legros

  • Her twin sister Annayka currently plays volleyball at Coastal Carolina

Emma Lock

  • Her uncle, Andy Lock, played football at Missouri. Currently, her cousin Drew is the Tigers’ quarterback

Mikayla Shields

  • 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

Alicia Starr

  • 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

Jesse Turner

  • 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

It was a special atmosphere in the Carolina Volleyball Center on Sept. 4, as a crowd of 2,041 came out for the Gamecocks’ match against Clemson. Against Tennessee, the team drew a crowd of 1,819 (second-most in program history). Of the top 10 home crowds on record, eight have come under head coach Scott Swanson and three have come this season alone. Currently, the Gamecocks rank 38th nationally in average attendance this season (1,185), despite the fact that two matches were rescheduled due to weather and three matches have gone directly against home football games.

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.


  • South Carolina holds a 780-604 (.564) all-time record, dating back to 1973.
  • The Gamecocks joined the SEC for volleyball in 1991, and have an all-time conference record of 174-229 (.432).
  • In matches in the Carolina Volleyball Center, Carolina 181-97 (.655).
  • With 87 career wins, head coach Scott Swanson ranks third in program history for wins. Kim Hudson (1993-2004) is the program’s wins leader, with 226.