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Nov. 17, 2016


Friday: Alabama, 7:00 p.m. ET (SENIOR NIGHT) | Live Stats
Sunday: at Auburn, 2:30 p.m. ET | Live Stats | SEC Network+/WatchESPN
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COLUMBIA, S.C. – The South Carolina volleyball team will hold its annual Senior Night celebration Friday, when the Gamecocks host Alabama for a 7 p.m. match at the Carolina Volleyball Center. The senior ceremony will take place following the match, and will honor five graduating Gamecocks: Jacqy Angermiller, Koko Atoa-Williams, Joely Cabrera, Dessaa Legros and Megan Kirkland.

There is also a special BOGO offer on tickets for the match ââ’¬” any fan purchasing a ticket will get an extra ticket for free.

It will be a split weekend for South Carolina, who will wrap up competition on Sunday with a road match at Auburn. That is scheduled for a 2:30 p.m. ET start, and will air on the SEC Network+ online stream.

Alabama split last weekend, losing Sunday at No. 6 Florida but winning a thrilling five-set match against arch-rival Auburn in Tuscaloosa. The Tide do have wins in two of their last three outings, but are just 2-5 since Oct. 23 and 2-6 overall on the road this season. With outside hitter Kat Hutson out with an injury since Sept. 10, Bama has run senior Krystal Rivers early and often for offensive production, and she has produced eye-popping numbers that puts her second in the nation in kills (5.75/set) and total points (6.53/set).

For the season, Rivers has 1,445 attacks to her name, just 95 fewer than Alabama’s second-, third- and fourth-leading attackers combined. Despite the heavy reliance on Rivers, Alabama does have a number of other threats on both sides of the net. Leah Lawrence leads the team with 104 total blocks and pitches in 1.62 kills per set, Brittany Thomas averages 2.91 digs and 1.89 kills per set, and freshman Hayley McSparin ranks second on the team with 1.94 kills per set.

The Tigers tout one of the most well-rounded offenses in the SEC, with four different hitters averaging over two kills per set joining in with perhaps the most dangerous setter in the conference. Alexa Filley ranks fifth overall on the team in kills as a six-rotation setter, but also averages almost 10 assists per set and has dig averages (3.31/set) that rival most team’s liberos. Auburn leads the conference in digs per set, popping up 15.55 as a team, and wears down the opposition with an offense that doesn’t lean on any one player in particular.

For 2016, Auburn has played in 27 matches, and nine of those have gone five sets with another nine going four. On defense, the Tigers don’t have a particularly imposing block (averaging just 1.71/set), but keep the ball alive thanks to libero Jesse Earl (5.14 digs/set). On offense, sophomore Breanna McIlroy averages 3.09 kills per set, and thanks to the strong passers for Auburn, middle blockers Gwyn Jones and Breanna Barksdale are second and third on the team in kills, combining to average 4.77 per set through the middle.


  • Despite giving up more kills to Missouri on Sunday, the Gamecocks committed 11 fewer attack errors to take a match that was decided by a combined 11 points. 12 blocks for South Carolina are the most in a single match since Oct. 2 against Kentucky. All told, the Tigers committed 30 unforced errors (17 attack, eight on service, two on serve receive and three on blocking errors).
  • The last win over a ranked opponent came on Sept. 17, 2006, when current assistant coach Shonda Cole talled 35 kills over four sets to beat #6 Florida. This is South Carolina’s second win ever against Missouri, the last coming at home in 2014.
  • Koko Atoa-Williams recorded her third double-double of the season on Sunday, giving her 16 for her career. She now ranks 21st in school history for double-doubles, and her 18 digs Sunday night are the most since her career high of 27 against Tennessee in 2014.
  • Mikayla Shields has flourished in the team’s 5-1 offense against Missouri. The freshman put together her third double-double over the last five matches and had a season-best 14 digs.
  • Missouri hit .367 as a team in the first meeting between the two this season, but the Tigers were limited to just .178 on Sunday. South Carolina was able to slow down a deep Mizzou offense thanks to 12 blocks. Four different players had three or more blocks, led by Claire Edwards’ four.
  • The team’s 18 wins are now tied for the most under Scott Swanson, and tied for the most since 2008.
  • Megan Kirkland’s 13 digs against Florida are tied for the most in a three-set match for Carolina this season.
  • Koko Atoa-Williams was second on the team with 11 digs Friday night in Gainesville. It was her ninth match of the season with double digit digs. She had seven for the entire 2015 season.
  • The Gators out-aced the Gamecocks 8-0 for the night, and were able to keep South Carolina out of system on offense throughout the match. The last time the Gamecocks went a whole match without an ace was Oct. 15, 2014, coincidentally against Florida.

The Gamecocks will bid farewell to five seniors, honoring them on Nov. 18 against Alabama. Jacqy Angermiller, Koko Atoa-Williams, Megan Kirkland and Dessaa Legros are all four-year members of the program who have combined to play in over 400 matches, and Joely Cabrera came to Columbia from junior college in 2015. The group is leaving Carolina on high notes, as Kirkland is averaging new career highs in assists and digs, Atoa-Williams in digs per set and aces, Angermiller and Legros are each hitting well above their career averages, and Cabrera is averaging 1.68 digs per set as a defensive sub.

The Gamecocks’ 12 aces against Georgia on Sunday were a season high, surpassing the 11 they had against Buffalo on Sept. 9. The team’s best performance in SEC play coming in was just five, and it had not recorded 12 aces combined over the previous four matches.The last time South Carolina had 12 aces in a three set match was on Sept. 8, 2007 against Appalachian State. The total is the best in any three set match in the SEC so far this season. Mikayla Shield’s six aces are tied for the second-most in a three set match in program history. Megan Hosp holds the record with eight, and eight other Gamecocks have had six – including Aubrey Ezell earlier this year against Buffalo.

Early season tests on the road at Georgia Southern and Wake Forest have helped the Gamecocks be, as senior Dessaa Legros put it, “comfortable being uncomfortable”. The team is 5-2 in four-set matches and 4-0 in five-set matches so far this season, highlighted by the comeback at Mississippi State on Nov. 4. Carolina trailed 2-0 in the match, but battled back to win despite trailing 20-16 late in the third set and 13-12 in the fifth. Over their four five-set matches, the Gamecocks are out-hitting opponents .271 to .196 in those fourth and fifth sets.

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. Seven of South Carolina’s eight conference losses to date have come to those four teams, who currently have a combined conference record of 51-7 (.879). 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 3.08 kills per set, and his hitting an impressive .312 for the season despite hitting from the outside. So far this season, she has 15 matches with double-digit kills (highlighted by a season-high 23 at Mississippi State) and has hit over .500 seven times.
  • Courtney Koehler has stepped in as a setter in the team’s 6-2 offense and is averaging 4.28 assists and 1.16 digs per set. 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 281 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 1.18 kills and 1.13 blocks per set and hitting .322 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.


  • The team is out-hitting the opposition .299 to .183, and have yet to lose this season when out-hitting opponents in a match (17-0).
  • The opposition averages 1.10 aces per set, compared to 1.39 for Carolina. The Gamecocks are 10-0 when finishing a match with more aces.
  • The Gamecocks average 2.43 blocks per set, compared to 1.57 for opponents.
  • Freshman Mikayla Shields hits .354 in wins, compared to .189 in losses. Her kills per set dips from 3.44 in wins to 2.15 in losses.
  • The offense features the middle attackers much more in wins, as the trio of Jacqy Angermiller, Alicia Starr and Claire Edwards combine for 4.44 kills per set in wins and 3.21 in losses.


  • The offense is hitting just .160 in losses with two fewer kills per set than the season average, and the defense is allowing opponents to hit .307. None of Carolina’s top four hitters are above .200 through the team’s seven losses.
  • The Gamecocks are allowing 1.96 aces per set to opponents in the four matches, but only average 0.69 aces while holding serve.
  • Opponent’s passing success weight heavily in matches lost by Carolina. In the five losses, Gamecock opponents are averaging three digs more per set (15.62 to 12.62) and has a serve-reception percentage advantage of .960 to .914.
  • Seven of South Carolina’s eight losses have come after dropping the first set.

Senior libero Megan Kirkland (Lugoff, S.C.) was named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District team on Thursday, Nov. 3. She has carried a perfect 4.0 grade point average throughout her college career, despite carrying an exercise science major. Kirkland is due to graduate in December, and has already been accepted into Carolina’s prestigious Physician Assistant Program. On the court, Megan is having a career year, already with a new season best of 79 assists and an average of 3.36 digs per set while appearing in every match for the Gamecocks.

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.

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 (1,135), despite the fact that two matches were rescheduled due to weather and four other matches went directly against either home football or basketball games.


  • South Carolina holds a 785-608 (.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 179-233 (.431).
  • In matches in the Carolina Volleyball Center, Carolina 184-98 (.650).
  • With 92 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.