Nov. 22, 2016
COLUMBIA, S.C. – The South Carolina volleyball team wraps up the 2016 regular season this week, sandwiching a pair of matches around Thanksgiving. The Gamecocks host Arkansas Wednesday night at 7 p.m. in the home finale at the Carolina Volleyball Center, then travel to Ole Miss on Black Friday for a 7 p.m. match in Oxford to close out the schedule.
Fans who attend the men’s basketball game against Michigan at 5 p.m. on Wednesday can bring their ticket stub from the game and get in to volleyball for free. Also, volleyball’s season ticket holders will each get one complimentary ticket to bring another fan to the match.
SCOUTING ARKANSAS (8-20, 6-10 SEC)
Arkansas is coming into Wednesday night’s match on a high note, having won three straight and five of the last seven matches. The Razorbacks have experienced growing pains in head coach Jason Watson’s first season with the program, especially with top hitter Pilar Victoria’s season-ending injury that has kept her out for the year. Despite the setbacks, the Hogs have seen Danielle Harbin step up as one of the conference’s top hitters. The senior pin averages 4.23 kills per set and also pitches in 1.58 digs and 0.77 blocks per set. Arkansas has a strong defense at the net, blocking down 2.29 balls per set, and also has one of the conference’s top liberos with Okiana Valle (4.15 digs/set).
SCOUTING OLE MISS (16-13, 5-11 SEC)
The Rebels lost three key pieces from 2015, and transitioned from a middle-reliant offense to more of a focus on the outside attack. Pin hitters Kate Gibson (3.48 kills/set) and Lexi Thompson (3.44 k/s) have done more than just fill the void, they combine for one of the best 1-2 punches in the conference. Ole Miss also has one of the best attacking setters with Aubrey Edie, and a defense that ranks second in the SEC for digs per set (at 15.31). The Rebs have split their last six matches, and will likely be battling the Gamecocks for positioning in the conference standings come Black Friday.
PREVIOUS WEEKEND (ALABAMA/AUBURN) NOTABLES
- The Gamecock defense was unable to stop Krystal Rivers from Alabama on Friday, and the senior hitter hurt them with 19 kills, four aces and a .400 hitting percentage.
- The Gamecocks celebrated their five seniors Friday night against the Crimson Tide: Jacqy Angermiller, Koko Atoa-Williams, Joely Cabrera, Megan Kirkland and Dessaa Legros.
- With her 12 kills Sunday at Auburn, Mikayla Shields became the fourth freshman in the rally-scoring era (since 2001) to go over 300 kills in a single season.
- Shields now has double-digit kills in seven of the last nine matches for the Gamecocks.
- Auburn’s 52 kills are the second-most allowed by Carolina in a three-set match this season.
HOLDING ALL THE ACES
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.
COMFORTABLE BEING UNCOMFORTABLE
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.
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. Seven of South Carolina’s eight conference losses to date have come to those four teams, who currently have a combined conference record of 56-9 (.862). 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 3.17 kills per set, and his hitting an impressive .309 for the season despite hitting from the outside. So far this season, she has 17 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 4.09 assists and 1.11 digs per set. On top of her setting skills, she has been a clutch server, with 12 aces and the team’s best serve percentage (eight errors in 286 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 1.15 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 WIN…
- 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.
KIRKLAND NAMED ACADEMIC All-DISTRICT
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 80 assists and an average of 3.34 digs per set while appearing in every match for the Gamecocks.
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.
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 42nd nationally in average attendance this season (1,114), despite the fact that two matches were rescheduled due to weather and five other matches went directly against either home football or basketball games.
- South Carolina holds a 785-610 (.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 179-235 (.429).
- In matches in the Carolina Volleyball Center, Carolina 184-99 (.648).
- 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.