Nov. 3, 2016
STARKVILLE, MS. – A key weekend of action lies ahead for the South Carolina volleyball team, as the Gamecocks take on Mississippi State and Georgia. The team heads to Starkville Friday night, then returns home Sunday at 12:30 to take on Georgia in a makeup for the Oct. 7 match that was moved due to hurricane Matthew. Both games will air on the SEC Network+ online stream.
With women’s basketball rescheduling its exhibition to Sunday at 1:30, fans looking to attend volleyball will have different parking than usual due to the game at Colonial Life Arena. Parking at the Strom Thurmond Wellness and Fitness Center is free, and parking in the B Lot will be free up until noon. After that, parking in the B Lot will cost $10. Admission for Sunday’s match is free for fans that bring a ticket stub from football’s game against Missouri on Saturday.
SCOUTING MISSISSIPI STATE (12-13, 4-7 SEC)
The Bulldogs are making great strides in the second year of head coach David McFatrich’s tenure, already approaching their 2016 conference win total with six matches remaining in the season. The success has come two ways – the introduction of freshman Emily Hill (2.88 kills/set) and transfer Jelena Vujcin (2.52 kills/set) and the tremendous growth of middle Jazmyne Johnson as a blocker. Hill and Vujcin have taken some of the offensive burden off star pin Evie Grace Singleton, who has increased her kills per set average and remains one of the top servers in the nation (0.44/set). Defensively, the Bulldogs are averaging more blocks per set thanks to Johnson’s 1.12 average, and are led by a pair of strong defensive specialists in Cheyenne Spell (2.95 digs/set) and Peyton Harris (3.24). Mississippi State will be confident back in Newell-Grissom gym, where it is 9-3 on the season, after playing five of its last six matches on the road and losing all five road contests.
SCOUTING GEORGIA (13-10, 1-9 SEC)
The Bulldogs’ win over South Carolina on Oct. 7 is their lone highight of the conference season so far, as they have dropped five straight since to fall to 1-9 in SEC action. On offense, Georgia has five players over 100 kills for the season, led by pin Maddie Lobenstein (244 kills, 3.13 per set). Through the middle, the Dawgs have Majesti Bass and Desiree McCray, and the two combine to average 1.85 blocks and 3.69 kills per set. Shoring up the back line of the defense is libero Cassidy Anderson, who pops up an average of 3.75 digs per set and also leads the team with 37 aces on serve so far in 2016 (0.45 per set). In the first meeting between the two schools, Anderson had four aces, and Lobenstein stung the Gamecocks with a match-high 18 kills.
WEEKEND (TEXAS A&M/LSU) NOTABLES
Dessaa Legros’ 26 kills against LSU are tied for the fifth most in a four-set match in the rally-scoring era (since 2001). The last Gamecock to have more was Juliette Thevenin on Sept. 21, 2013.
Koko Atoa-Williams continues to heat up down the stretch, the senior had 12 kills and eight digs Friday against LSU. Over the last three matches, she is averaging 3.10 kills and 3.19 digs per set.
Mikayla Shields quietly tallied her second double-double of the season against LSU, finishing the match with 13 kills and 11 digs.
The win over LSU is the second this season; the Gamecocks had not won back-to-back meetings over the Tigers since 2008.
Along with the LSU match being the team’s Dig Pink game, it was also Alumni Night for South Carolina. In all, 15 former players and staff were in attendance, including the program’s three Hall of Famers ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ Ashley (Edlund) Heidtke, Heather Larkin and Shonda Cole.
Dessaa Legros followed up her 26-kill performance vs. LSU with a team-high 12 kills against Texas A&M. The senior also hit .333 over her 27 attacks.
The Gamecock servers showed a tougher offering Sunday, finishing with four aces and just four errors. It was the most by the team since Oct. 7 at Georgia, a span of five matches.
Jacqy Angermiller’s six total blocks vs. the Aggies are tied for a season high, and her five block assists are the most the senior has had all season.
Courtney Furlong earned her first start of the season against Texas A&M, and the sophomore finished with six kills and four block assists.
TO BE THE BEST, YOU HAVE TO BEAT THE BEST
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. The Gamecocks’ first ten SEC opponents currently have a combined conference record of 66-40 (.623), facing Kentucky and Texas A&M twice and the other top two teams (Missouri and Florida)once. South Carolina still has rematches with Missouri and Florida scheduled this season; no other team in the conference plays each of the aforementioned top four twice this year.
The team has received a big lift from a trio of freshman at key positions this season:
Mikayla Shields leads the team with 2.94 kills per set, and his hitting an impressive .319 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 Invite.
Courtney Koehler has stepped in as a setter in the team’s 6-2 offense and is averaging 4.47 assists and 1.28 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 11 aces and the team’s best serve percentage (eight errors in 270 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. She is averaging 1.12 kills and 1.18 blocks per set and hitting .317 in conference play this season. 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.
WHEN THE GAMECOCKS WINÃ¢â‚¬Â¦
The opposition averages 1.16 aces per set, compared to 1.38 for Carolina. The Gamecocks are 8-0 when finishing a match with more aces.
The Gamecocks average 2.47 blocks per set and have 34 solo blocks, compared to just 1.42 for opponents.
Freshman Mikayla Shields hits .365 in wins, compared to .201 in losses. Her kills per set dips from 3.26 in wins to 2.17 in losses.
WHEN THE GAMECOCKS LOSEÃ¢â‚¬Â¦
The offense is hitting just .158 in losses with two fewer kills per set than the season average, and the defense is allowing opponents to hit .301. Only one of Carolina’s top four hitters are above .200 through the team’s seven losses.
Serve reception has been the biggest x-factor in losses, as the Gamecocks are allowing 1.83 aces per set to opponents in the four matches, but only average 0.78 aces while holding serve.
Opponent’s passing success weight heavily in matches lost by Carolina. In the five losses, Gamecocks opponents are averaging almost three digs more per set (15.78 to 12.40) and has a serve-reception percentage of .956.
Six of South Carolina’s seven losses have come after dropping 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:
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
STANDING ROOM ONLY
Of the top 10 crowds on record at the Carolina Volleyball Center, three have come this season alone. Currently, the Gamecocks rank 41st nationally in average attendance this season (1,155), despite the fact that two matches were rescheduled due to weather and three other matches went directly against home football games.
COLE NAMED TO SOUTH CAROLINA ATHLETICS HALL OF FAME
Current South Carolina assistant head coach Shonda Cole was inducted into the South Carolina Athletics Hall of Fame class of 2016 on Thursday, Oct. 20. She is the third woman from the program to make the Hall of Fame, joining Ashley Edlund-Heidtke (inducted in 2010) and Heather Larkin (inducted in 2012). Cole was 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 U.S. national team, Cole has returned to her alma mater and is in her second season as a full-time assistant.
South Carolina holds a 782-607 (.563) all-time record, dating back to 1973.
The Gamecocks joined the SEC for volleyball in 1991, and have an all-time conference record of 176-232 (.431).
In matches in the Carolina Volleyball Center, Carolina 182-98 (.650).
With 89 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.