Gamecocks Prepare for Week Three of SEC Play, Host Dig Pink Match Sunday
South Carolina travels to Missouri Friday night, hosts Texas A&M Sunday afternoon
COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina volleyball’s nine-match win streak and 4-0 SEC record will be under siege in week three of conference play, as the team takes on Missouri (12-4, 2-2 SEC) at 7:30 p.m. ET Friday before returning home to the Carolina Volleyball Center for a Sunday match at 1:30 against Texas A&M (10-5, 3-0 SEC). Sunday will be the team’s annual Dig Pink match, any fan attending the match wearing pink will receive a ticket for just $1.
GAMECOCKS RANKED IN RPI TOP 25, RECEIVE VOTES IN COACHES POLL
South Carolina checked in at No. 18 in the first RPI rankings of the season, released by the NCAA on Monday afternoon. The team also received 11 votes in the weekly coaches top-25 poll, released today by the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA), third-most among teams outside the top-25. South Carolina was last ranked in the coaches top-25 poll in 2002 and ended the 2017 season ranked 156th in the RPI standings.
SEPTEMBER TO REMEMBER
The Gamecocks finished the month of September with a perfect 9-0 record that included three road wins. The last team to go undefeated through the entire month of September was the 1983 squad under head coach Elain Mozingo, who went on to finish the season 34-4.
Missouri lost four starters from last season’s NCAA tournament Sweet 16 team, but injected the roster with talent thanks to six college transfers. Kylie Deberg, Annika Gereau and Tyanna Omazic came in from Illinois, Jaden Newsome from Colorado, Katie Turner from William & Mary and Sun Wenting from Miami Dade junior college. Currently, Deberg leads the team with 3.27 kills per set, Omazic has added 2.05 kills and 1.02 blocks per set as a middle, and Newsome serves as a setter in Missouri’s 6-2 offense (4.44 assists/set). They’ve been strong additions to a team that also returned all-american middle blocker Alyssa Munlyn, who currently ranks sixth in NCAA for total blocks and leads a defense that ranks ninth nationally in blocks per set and is in the top 25 in opponent hitting percentage allowed (.157). In SEC play, the Tigers have wins over Alabama and Arkansas and losses to Tennessee and Kentucky.
LAST TIME VS. THE TIGERS…
The Tigers came out on top in a five-set slugfest at the Carolina Volleyball Center on Nov. 8 of last season, out-hitting Carolina .406 to .343. The Gamecocks rallied back from a 2-1 deficit to force a deciding fifth, but lost 16-14. Mikayla Shields had a career day, with 29 kills on just 50 swings, and the team’s overall .343 hitting percentage was the second-highest for a five-set match in the program’s all-time history.
SCOUTING TEXAS A&M
The Aggies are one of four remaining unbeaten teams in SEC play, coming into the weekend at 3-0 with a road match at Florida Friday night. The team has bounced back after a rare down year in 2017, already matching its win total from last year under new head coach Laura Kuhn. The offense is spearheaded by junior Hollann Hans, who ranks 32nd nationally in kills per set (3.22) and is in the top 20 for aces per set (0.50). Camille Connor quarterbacks the offense with 10.23 assists, 2.26 digs and 1.39 kills per set, and is coming off a triple-double in the 3-2 win over LSU last Sunday. Defensively, libero Amy Houser ranks fifth in the SEC in digs, but the net defense ranks 12th in the SEC with just 1.74 blocks per set as a group.
LAST TIME VS. THE AGGIES…
The Gamecocks were swept on the road in College Station, hitting just .085 with 13 unforced attack errors. Mikayla Shields had a career-high six aces and Aubrey Ezell added 20 digs to surpass 1,000 for her career in the losing effort. Kiara McGee dominated the Gamecocks, with 15 kills and 11 digs to lead an A&M offense that hit .312 with 42 kills in the three-set decision.
SEC WEEK TWO NOTABLES
- Friday night was the team’s first win at Alabama since 2012, and the first sweep there since 2008.
- With 48 kills, the Gamecock offense matched its season high for kills in a three-set match. The team’s 54 digs are the second most this season for a single match of any length.
- Jess Vastine’s 10 kills and 12 digs mark the sophomore’s first double-double of her career.
- Brittany McLean’s 14 kills and Aubrey Ezell’s 18 digs are a three-set high for Carolina in 2018.
- South Carolina has won three of the last four matches at Georgia, but this is the team’s first 3-2 win over the Bulldogs in the history of the series (71 matches, dating back to 1975).
- The last time the team won back-to-back road SEC matches was in 2014, when it beat Tennessee on Nov. 19 and Georgia on Nov. 23.
- This is the team’s first win after trailing a match 2-0 since Nov. 4, 2016.
- Mikayla Shields recorded her fourth double-double of 2018 and moved to 17th in program history for a career (with 20).
- Mikayla Robinson’s 11 blocks (one solo, 10 assists) are a career high. The last Gamecock with double-digit blocks was Alicia Starr on Oct. 3, 2016.
- The last Gamecock to have a double-double with kills and blocks was Darian Dozier on Nov. 6, 2015.
- The 15 total blocks for the team was the most in a single match since Oct. 3, 2016 vs. Kentucky.
- Courtney Koehler surpassed 2,000 career assists after passing out 44 at Georgia. She is the fifth setter in the program’s rally-scoring era to reach the milestone.
GAMECOCKS EARN WIN #800
South Carolina’s 3-0 sweep of Clemson on Aug. 25 was the 800th victory in the program’s history. Along the way, the team has 17 season with 20 wins or more and seven appearances in the NCAA tournament.
MENDOZA BEGINS FIRST SEASON IN COLUMBIA
Tom Mendoza became the 13th head coach in Gamecock volleyball’s 46-year history on Jan. 3, 2018. Mendoza spent 2016 and 2017 as head coach at High Point University, where he led the Panthers to back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances. In 2017, the Panthers were in rare company as a mid-major program earning an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. In the postseason, Mendoza was named the Big South’s and AVCA Southeast Region’s Coach of the Year.
Before taking over at High Point, Mendoza helped lay the foundation for one of the top indoor program in the country, at Creighton. During his six years there, Mendoza helped the program win five conference titles, earn five NCAA Tournament bids and a berth in the NCAA Sweet 16 in 2015.
Senior libero Aubrey Ezell has at least three aces in nine of the team’s first 14 matches, and is now ranks fifth in the program’s all-time history. She currently leads the SEC and ranks fourth nationally with 0.88 aces/set, and is the NCAA active career leader.
Last season, Mikayla Shields became the third sophomore in the program’s 45-year history to make it to 700 career kills, joining all-time kills leader Lori Rowe (in 1984), and current associate head coach Shonda Cole (in 2004). In the Sept. 23 win over LSU, Shields moved past 900 career kills, making her the seventh Gamecock in program history to make 900 kills in three seasons (despite having 14 matches left to play).
MCLEAN, VASTINE REMEDY LEFT SIDE ATTACK
Junior Britt McLean arrived in Columbia this summer after two seasons with Minnesota, and sophomore Jess Vastine saw considerable playing time as a freshman at Carolina, but was relegated to a largely back-row role. The duo has already given a facelift to one of South Carolina’s weaknesses in 2017 – consistent offensive numbers from the left-side attack. McLean and Vastine’s combined numbers (4.64 kills per set, .193 hitting percentage) compare favorably to the combined numbers of the Gamecocks’ four main left-side hitters from 2017 (5.54 k/s, .153 hitting percentage).
In the last five matches…
- South Carolina is out-hitting opponents, .233 to .128.
- Mikayla Shields is hitting .331 with 3.29 kills per set.
- Mikayla Robinson has 25 total blocks, and averages 1.47 per set. She’s also hitting .319 with 2.41 kills per set.
- The Gamecock’s serve receivers have been aced 11 times, compared to 23 for opponents. Jess Vastine leads the team with 111 receptions and just two errors.
Aubrey Ezell is on an impressive streak for the Gamecocks. The senior has not missed a single set in her career, entering Friday on a stretch of 105 matches played. Currently, her 386 total sets ranks 9th in the rally-scoring era, but no other player has played as many consecutively.
PHEISTER ROUNDS OUT GAMECOCK STAFF
Joining first-year head coach Tom Mendoza and fourth-year assistant coach Shonda Cole on the bench this fall will be Ethan Pheister, who spent the last three seasons as an assistant at LSU, working with the setters and helping coordinate the offense. The Tigers turned themselves around in 2017, going from nine wins in the previous season to 20 wins and an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. Pheister had prior experience coaching in the SEC in 2012, helping Arkansas make the NCAA tournament.
MCLEAN BRINGS POSTSEASON EXPERIENCE TO SC
Britt McLean transferred to South Carolina after two seasons at Minnesota. She comes to the team after ending the 2017 on a high note with the Gophers, playing every set of their three NCAA tournament matches. In the opening round against North Dakota, McLean led the team with 13 kills and a .355 attack percentage in a sweep. In her two seasons at Minnesota, McLean played in nine matches.
EZELL IN A CLASS OF HER OWN
Aubrey Ezell passed 175 career aces during the team’s win over Mississippi State on Friday, Sept. 21, making her the only player in the program’s 45-year history to reach 2,000 assists, 1,000 digs and 175 aces in a career.
The Gamecocks have made the Carolina Volleyball Center one of the toughest venues in the country over the last three seasons. Of the program’s top ten crowds all time in the CVC, nine have come in the last three years and three of the top five have come this season, including a program-record crowd of 3,458 at the Clemson match on Aug. 25. This season, the Gamecocks rank 20th nationally for cumulative attendance and 21st in average attendance.
- South Carolina holds an 810-631 (.561) all-time record, dating back to 1973. The team’s 800th win of all time came on Aug. 25, 2018 against Clemson.
- The Gamecocks joined the SEC for volleyball in 1991, and have an all-time conference record of 189-263 (.415).
- In matches in the Carolina Volleyball Center, Carolina 196-111 (.638) overall and 97-94 (.507) in SEC matches.
- Tom Mendoza became the program’s 13th head coach on Jan. 3, 2018. This is his third season overall as a head coach, with a career record of 60-19.