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Aug. 24, 2017


Volleyball’s Gamecock Invitational

COLUMBIA, S.C. – The South Carolina volleyball program begins its much-anticipated 2017 season on Friday night, when it hosts Mercer for the first of three weekend matches in the Gamecock Invitational. First serve at the Carolina Volleyball Center is scheduled for 7 p.m.

The Gamecocks are also scheduled to compete with Troy and North Florida on this opening weekend. Saturday with feature a 1 p.m. match against the Trojans and a 7 p.m. tournament finale against the Ospreys. Live stats will be available throughout the weekend, but there will be no live video stream of the matches.

Fans who are planning to attend the weekend tournament are encouraged to review this season’s parking guide and clear bag policy, located here, to ensure a safe and speedy entrance to the gym.

GAMECOCKS READY FOR 2017 SCHEDULE The 30-match schedule for 2017 features two home tournament in the non-conference, as well as battles with eight non-conference opponent who won 15 or more matches in 2016. Following opening weekend at the CVC, the team will compete at the Duke Invite, with a field including the Blue Devils, Northwestern and UNC-Wilmington.Capping the home non-conference schedule is the Carolina Classic, Sept. 8-9. The field features a pair of opponents coming off 20-win seasons, with Miami (Ohio) (24-7) and Radford (24-6). The Gamecocks will also host Eastern Kentucky. In the final tune-up before conference play, Carolina will head to the upstate for the Clemson Challenge Sept. 15-16. The Gamecocks play Georgia Southern on Friday, then take on Texas Tech Saturday morning before a 7 p.m. showdown with their rivals in Jervey Gym.

The Southeastern Conference season begins Sept. 22 with a Friday road match at Mississippi State, then Carolina returns for three home matches in the span of one week. The conference home opener pits the team against LSU on Friday, Sept. 29, with games against Tennessee (Oct. 1) and Georgia (Oct. 6) to follow. The Gamecocks have a home-and-away series with Mississippi State, Tennessee, Arkansas, Ole Miss, Auburn, and Alabama this season.

The Bears are coming off a 15-14 record in 2016, and return five starters and nine players who saw time in 50 or more sets last season. Leading the offense last season was current senior Morgan MacGilvary, who averaged 3.26 kills per set. Fellow pin Emily Krogman had a solid year all-around, with an average of 2.42 kills and 2.15 digs per set. On the defensive side of the net, 6-foot, 3-inch blocker Paige Alsten averaged an impressive 1.26 blocks per set and also chipped in 2.10 kills. This season, the veteran Bears will be lead by first-year head coach Derek Schroeder, who comes to the program after a successful tenure at Samford.

The Trojans return three starters and their libero from 2016, when they finished 10-23 overall. Head coach Josh Lauer is in his first season, and will be tasked with developing new offensive weapons after the team lost three of its top for attackers from last year. The team’s top returners are Logan Page (207 kills, 112 total blocks) and setter Reina Terry (841 assists, 219 digs). Five new Trojans join the fold this season, with four freshman and Towson transfer Jenni Young.

UNF will be a team to watch in the Atlantic Sun this season, as it returns almost every major contributor from last season’s 18-win campaign. Leading the charge is super sophomore Gabby O’Connell, who was the conference’s freshman of the year in 2016, averaging 3.34 kills and 2.61 digs per set. Former LSU pin Katarina Raicevic also returns, after ranking second on the team in kills in 2016. Adding to the offensive firepower is setter/right side Carinne Turner (232 assists, 224 digs) and setter Madilyn McCarty (8.16 assists, 2.05 digs per set). The Ospreys are under the direction of sixth-year head coach Steve Loeswick.

The South Carolina Gamecocks were picked to finish seventh in the SEC, and sophomore pin Mikayla Shields made the 10-woman preseason all-conference team. Both were voted on by league coaches. The Orlando, Fla. native is the first Gamecock to make the conference’s preseason team since Juliette Thévenin in 2013.


  • South Carolina is coming of an 18-win season in 2016, the since 2012.
  • The team went 4-0 in five-set matches, and 5-3 in four-setters.
  • The offense hit a combined .246 for the year, 37 points higher than 2015 and the third-highest overall in the last decade. The Gamecocks hit over .300 as a team 11 times in 2016.
  • Mikayla Shields finished the season with team highs in kills (341) and hitting percentage (.308). She is the first Gamecock since Shonda Cole in 2006 to lead the team in both categories, and is the first since Belita Salters in 2008 to have over 300 kills while also hitting above .300.
  • Shields earned a spot on the AVCA honorable mention team for the Southeast. She is the 25th Gamecock in school history to make the team, and the first Carolina freshman since Ashley Edlund in 1995 to be honored.
  • Alicia Starr set the freshman record for most blocks per set in the rally-scoring era (with 1.13). Her 14 solo blocks are the most by a first-year player since Megan Laughlin in 2007.
  • Aubrey Ezell shattered the sophomore service aces record, finishing with 41. She also cut her error rate down from 0.82 per set in 2015 to 0.58 in 2016 (94 to 62).

The team spent the last week of the summer preseason in Boone, N.C., where it had two days of practice and then a scrimmage against Appalachian State. The two teams split the four-set exhibition, with Mikayla Shields and Mikayla Robinson leading the South Carolina offense with 10 kills each. On the defensive end, Aubrey Ezell had 19 digs, and Alicia Starr and Jesse Turner each had a pair of solo blocks.

On Saturday, the team returned home for its annual Garnet and Black intra-squad scrimmage. The Black team had Courtney Furlong lead the way on offense, with the junior finishing with 14 kills. Shields would lead the team in total kills, totaling 16 while splitting time between the two rosters. Mikayla Robinson (14), Brooke Gostomski (13), Alicia Starr (10) and Jess Vastine (10) all finished with double-digit kills as well, as the offense’s array of weapons were on display.

Defensively, Ezell finished with 22 digs, and her libero counterpart Emma Lock finished with 18. Gostomski showed her potential as a six-rotation player after posting 13 kills and 10 digs. At the net, Robinson led the team with four total blocks, and Starr finished with two emphatic solo blocks for the Garnet squad.

The Gamecock offense will turn to sophomore Courtney Koehler to lead the way in 2017, as the Asheville, N.C. native will be handed the full-time setting duty. Junior Aubrey Ezell will start the season in a new role, the team’s libero, after she and Koehler split setting responsibilities in 2016. Koehler averaged four assists and just over a dig per set in her first year in Columbia.

The Gamecocks welcome in four freshman for the 2017 season…

  • Brooke Gostomski was a multiple-time Wisconsin Volleyball Coaches Association (WVCA) All-State honoree as an outside hitter, playing for Muskego High School. She missed her senior season due to injury, but still was named one of the top 150 high school seniors due to her success at the club level.
  • Ellie Popelka was a high school all-american for Jamestown High School in Virginia. She made the AVCA’s high school phenom team three times, and was the Wendy’s High School Heisman representative for Virginia.
  • Mikayla Robinson comes to Carolina as a top-20 recruit, and is also a high school all-american. She made Volleyball Magazine’s Fab 50 team, and had a successful career at the high school and club level. Her father, Marcus, was a star football player at South Carolina and in the NFL.
  • Jess Vastine is another high school all-american, coming to Columbia from Wittman, Arizona. She finished second in kills and third in aces at the state’s Division II level, and was a AIA Division I first team member while playing for her mother at Millennium High School.

After posting one of the best seasons ever by a Gamecock freshman, Mikayla Shields expanded her skills over the summer thanks to a stint with Team U.S.A. In April, she was named to the junior national team roster, and won gold with the team at the U20 Pan American Cup in Costa Rica. She was also invited to training camp for the FIVB U20 World Championships, but did not make the 12-woman roster. Shields is the first Gamecock to earn experience on the national team since 2006, when current assistant coach Shonda Cole competed for the U.S.A. Volleyball National A2 Team in 2005 and 2006.

The 2016 squad earned a place on The American Volleyball Coaches Association’s (AVCA) Team Academic Award for the sixth-straight season, all coming under the direction of head coach Scott Swanson. The team’s 3.673 GPA for the team in the spring semester was the second-highest in program history.

During the 2016 season alone, South Carolina welcomed in three of the top five crowds in the CVC’s history. Along with the an average of 1,094 fans in attendance, the Gamecocks won 10 home matches, including the fifth upset of a top-25 team in the building’s history – a 3-1 win over No. 21 Missouri. Carolina’s 10 wins marks the seventh season with double-digit home wins in CVC history.

“I think it’s the best home-court advantage in our league,” Head Coach Scott Swanson said. “Its so well-attended, well packed-out. Our student support is amazing, it’s loud, it’s intimidating and I think our athletes flourish in that environment. We want to continue to build the tradition of being a great home team.”


  • South Carolina holds a 785-612 (.562) all-time record, dating back to 1973.
  • The Gamecocks joined the SEC for volleyball in 1991, and have an all-time conference record of 179-237 (.431).
  • In matches in the Carolina Volleyball Center, Carolina 184-100 (.647).
  • 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.