Three Gamecock Veterans Return to Volleyball Program for 2021 Season
Dixon, Manning and Robinson all were key starters in the 2020-21 campaign
COLUMBIA, S.C. – Three Gamecock volleyball veterans are set to return for one more season, the team announced Monday. Taking advantage of an extra year of eligibility are Mallory Dixon, Kyla Manning and Mikayla Robinson. The trio started together in nearly all of the team’s 22 matches during the 2020-21 season, when South Carolina finished with a 12-10 overall record against SEC opponents.
“Bringing all three back is huge and we’re thrilled to have them,” head coach Tom Mendoza said. “The amount of experience these three have combined gives us a chance to feel comfortable in situations where we know we’ll be tested in the season ahead.”
Mikayla Robinson goes into her fifth campaign with the team with an opportunity to do something only three other Gamecocks have accomplished in the program’s 48-year history. Robinson ended last season with 422 career blocks and 983 kills, meaning she is just 17 kills from reaching 1,000 kills and 400 blocks. The last member of the program to reach that milestone was Heather Larkin (1994-97). The West Dundee, Ill. native earned All-SEC honors last season, making her the eighth Gamecock to be a three-time all-conference team member. She hit .332 with 2.52 kills per set and finished second on the team with 70 total blocks on the year.
“My goal for next season is to make it to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament and I’m looking forward to the schedule we’re going to be able to play this year,” Robinson said. “Even though it is my last semester I’m so excited to go into the fall with this team. We have great freshman coming in as well and I can’t wait to see their talents help us get further than we ever have!”
Dixon joined the team last fall after a four-year career at Wisconsin, and quickly grabbed the reins to the offense as the team’s setter. As one of three members of the team to play in every set, Dixon averaged 7.55 assists and 1.94 digs per set while finishing second on the team with 26 service aces.
“Our goal is definitely to get this team back to the tournament,” Dixon said. “I’m most looking forward to getting the opportunity to have a more ‘normal’ year in both volleyball and school and I can’t wait to get back to work with the team.”
Manning was also a graduate transfer, coming to Columbia after three seasons at Coastal Carolina. She provided an instant impact, leading the team in kills (273) and finishing second in digs (2.24 per set) while committing just five errors over 343 service receptions. She was a catalyst in both of the team’s wins over ranked opponents, totaling 35 kills over nine sets against No. 4 Florida and No. 25 Missouri.
“We saw that our group can beat anybody when we’re playing the game the right way, and if we can make that performance more consistent I believe we can make it there. The program has been on an upward climb and I want to contribute to that growth in the next season. I’m excited going into this next year because our team has a season of experience playing together under our belt without any of our starters leaving.”
South Carolina returns all but one of its letter winners coming out of the spring schedule and also added a talented freshmen class that brings depth to every position on the court.
“Last season, the starters were majority new faces in the lineup and moving into next season there is a greater sense of stability within the team, which can only lead to good things on the court,” Manning added. “I can’t wait to accomplish bigger things with our group and feel incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to play another season as a Gamecock.”
“We’re happy to have them represent South Carolina for one more year,” Mendoza said. “With the interrupted year and smaller NCAA tournament field last season, we’re excited to send these three out right. Plus, Mallory and Kyla have yet to experience our home gym at it’s full strength, with our fans and band filling the stands and providing an energy that I think is what makes Carolina volleyball special.”
For summer updates leading into the fall, including an upcoming announcement of the 2021 fall schedule, follow @GamecockVolley on social media.