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Gamecocks Wrap Non-Conference Schedule With Matches Thursday and Saturday
Women's Volleyball  . 

Gamecocks Wrap Non-Conference Schedule With Matches Thursday and Saturday

The team plays in Rock Hill Thursday before returning home Saturday afternoon

ROCK HILL, S.C. – South Carolina volleyball (6-2) faces two of the top teams from the Big South to close out the non-conference season, taking on Winthrop on the road Thursday at 7 p.m. and then returning home for a match against High Point on Saturday at 4 p.m. The Thursday match in Rock Hill will air on the ESPN+ network and Saturday will be on the SEC Network+.

High Point, the defending Big South champion, went 17-1 in the spring season and became the first team in league history to win an NCAA Tournament match when it defeated UCF in five sets last April. The Panthers lost two key pieces to the transfer portal, seeing Annie Sullivan (team-high 195 kills in 2020-21) and Kaley Rammelsberg (3rd in kills, 2nd in blocks) depart, but added two newcomers who have more than made up for the loss in production. Freshman Sydney Palazzolo leads the team with 3.70 kills per set with an efficient .278 hitting percentage, and LSU transfer Dylan Maberry sits just behind her with 3.40 kills per set. Defensively, the Panthers lost All-American Honorable Mention libero Abby Bottomley but have been boosted by freshman libero Jenny Wessling (4.25 digs per set). At the net, Gabrielle Idlebird leads the team with 34 total blocks after finishing with an average of 1.14 blocks per set in 2020-21.

Winthrop was picked to finish third in the Big South in the preseason coaches poll, coming off a 2020-21 season where the Eagles finished 9-7. Veteran middle Morgan Bossler has been a standout performer early on this season, hitting .409 with a team-high 3.11 kills per set. Those numbers stand up in even the team’s toughest matches of the season to date, as she put up 12 kills and a .455 hitting percentage against a nationally ranked Pepperdine team and added eight kills and a .412 percentage in three sets against Georgia. Defensively, Winthrop ranks 12th in the country for digs per set, at 17.89, with libero Leah Metzger’s 4.44 average leading the team.


  • Carolina’s defense held Kennesaw State to a .060 hitting percentage in the match Thursday night. The last time the team held an opponent under .100 was against Auburn on Oct. 28 last season.
  • A big key to the defense’s success against the Owls was its back line. Freshman Morgan Carter totaled 16 digs, classmate Lauren McCutcheon added 10 and South Carolina overall had 47 digs in the three sets.
  • With 10 kills Thursday, Kyla Manning now has double-digit kills and a hitting percentage of .300 or better in four of the team’s seven matches this season.
  • Freshman Claire Wilson led the offense with 20 assists and also added five blocks against Kennesaw State, a new personal best for the setter.
  • Kennesaw State entered the night with a 55-21 advantage in service aces in its first six matches, but totaled only four with 12 errors behind the line.
  • After allowing opponents no more than six aces in any single match entering Friday, South Carolina saw Santa Clara pass that by the second set and finished with 12 in the match. The Gamecocks had been aced 12 times combined over the last four games before Friday.
  • Kiune Fletcher had a solid day off the bench againt Santa Clara; the sophomore had a personal-best five kills on seven swings along with a pair of digs.
  • Mikayla Robinson had an uncharacteristic day on the attack, committing six errors with just three kills against the Broncos. In her 122 career matches as a Gamecock, she has only three games with more errors than kills.
  • The defense finished with four blocks for the match, a season low. Santa Clara hit .301 over the four sets, the highest by any opponent so far this fall.
  • Ellie Ruprich broke out of an offensive slump with seven kills and no errors over 13 swings Friday to go along with six kills on a .308 success rate Thursday vs. Kennesaw St. She had previously totaled 11 kills on a .047 hitting percentage in the previous four matches coming into the week.

Over the last five matches…

  • Kyla Manning has shined on offense, averaging 3.47 kills per set while hitting an efficient .309.
  • The team’s servers have piled up the aces, with 28 total over the last five games and five different individuals recording four or more aces apiece.
  • It hasn’t just been high ace totals that have spurred on the team’s success in the serve game, it also has been thanks to its efficiency; South Carolina has committed 21 fewer service errors than its opponents over the last five matches.
  • Opponents are hitting just .182 over the last five games, thanks to an improved effort from the back line of the Gamecock defense. Four different South Carolina players are averaging two or more digs per set in this span, led by freshman libero Morgan Carter’s 3.94.

Fresh off a weekend where it recorded the nation’s only two wins over top-25 opponents by an unranked team, South Carolina volleyball joined the national polls on Aug. 30. The Gamecocks came in at No. 24 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) ranks, the first time the team made the top-25 since 2002. South Carolina last came in ranked in the national top-25 on Dec. 2, 2002, earning the No. 24 spot in a season where it finished with a 23-7 record and made the second round of the NCAA tournament. The team did earn a spot in the AVCA’s top-15 poll in November of last season, but the poll accounted for only the four conferences competing that fall.

Individually, Mikayla Robinson and Lauren McCutcheon were recognized by the SEC for the contributions through the weekend. Robinson earned the conference’s Offensive Player and overall Player of the Week honors, and McCutcheon was tapped as Freshman of the Week.

Robinson hit .410 with 34 kills over 12 sets and added 14 blocks. In the season opener vs. No. 18 Washington State, Robinson hit .500 with 16 kills along with eight total blocks (two solo) and the Gamecocks came back against the Cougars and won in five sets. Saturday morning, she hit .348 with five more blocks and 12 kills as the team secured it’s second top-25 win in a 16-hour span by beating No. 23 Rice. The team’s only setback on the weekend came to No. 9 Pittsburgh, but Robinson still was efficient, hitting .357 with six kills in the three sets vs. the Panthers.

McCutcheon started all three matches and stuffed the box score all weekend, ending with 29 kills, 23 digs, four aces and eight blocks over 12 sets. In her college debut, she hit .438 with seven kills, 12 digs and two blocks against Washington State. Her best performance of the tournament came against Rice, when she led the team with 15 kills without a single attack error, hitting .517 with seven digs, three blocks and two key aces in a four-set win over the Owls. Facing an imposing block in the tournament final against Pitt, McCutcheon still recorded seven more kills, four digs and three blocks in three sets against the Panthers.

Along with earning the seventh weekly SEC award of her career, Mikayla Robinson also collected two major career milestones over the course of the weekend at the Carolina Classic. Against Washington State, she broke the program record for career blocks in the rally-scoring era (now with 436), surpassing Darian Dozier (2012-15). Against Rice, she also recorded her 1,000th career kill, making her the 16th member of the program to reach the milestone. She is one of just four Gamecocks in the program’s 49-season history to have both 1,000 kills and 400 blocks in a career, the last coming in 1997 by future South Carolina hall of fame middle Heather Larkin.

Despite bringing back 14 letterwinners from last season, South Carolina’s 2021 freshmen class iss still talented enough to see four of the five newcomers see playing time already this fall.

Oby Anadi is a 6-3 middle blocker from Slidell, La. – the first recruit from Louisiana in the program’s modern era. She was a four-year varsity letter winner and made her all-district team twice. As a senior, she led her high school to the quarterfinals of the state tournament and totaled 357 kills, 120 blocks and 39 service aces.

Morgan Carter is a defensive specialist who played her senior year of high school at Plano West  in Texas and with Madfrog Volleyball Club. Before the move to Texas, she was a four year varsity letter winner and earned two state championships will attending high school in Tennessee. 

Lauren McCutcheon comes to the program from the upstate, starring at J.L. Mann Academy in Greenville. The daughter of two former Gamecock student-athletes, McCutcheon already owns an impressive volleyball resume, making the all-state and AVCA all-region teams five times and earning Gatorade Player of the Year honors for South Carolina. Outside of high school volleyball, McCutcheon represented the United States as a member of the Deaf Volleyball National Team, winning gold at the 2019 Pan American Deaf Games. 

Emmy Rollins is another in-state star coming to Columbia, joining the team from West Florence High School. She made the all-state team twice and AVCA all-region team four times, also making the 2020 Under Armour Honorable Mention All-America team.

A native of Nashville, Tenn., Claire Wilson gives the team an imposing presence it has not had in many years, bring a 6-3 frame to the setter position. In her four seasons playing varsity, making the all-region team for each of her first three seasons and earning her region’s Most Valuable Player award as a senior.

Head coach Tom Mendoza earned his 50th win at South Carolina on Feb. 27 against No. 25 Missouri. He is the fastest Gamecock coach to reach 50 wins (based on the available records), including a faster start than the two winningest coaches in program history – Kim Williams (226 wins) and Bonnie Kenny (171). Mendoza won No. 50 in his 78th game with the team, compared to 82 for Kenny and 86 for Williams. The quick success stems from the team’s quick turnaround in SEC play; South Carolina has double-digit conference wins in each of Mendoza’s three seasons, the only other time that has happened in Gamecock history was from 2000-02 in Coach Williams’ eighth, ninth and tenth seasons in Columbia. 

Mendoza reached another milestone at the start of year four at South Carolina, winning his 100th career match as a head coach thanks to the upset of No. 18 Washington State on Aug. 27. He has a 55-34 mark with the Gamecocks and previously went 47-18 in two seasons at High Point.


  • Despite losing five of its seven starters from 2019, the Gamecocks picked up right where they left off and went 12-10 playing a SEC-only schedule due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
  • In the postseason, Mikayla Robinson made the 18-woman All-SEC team and Riley Whitesides made the seven-woman All-Freshman team. Robinson is the eighth Gamecock in program history to be a three-time all-SEC honoree. Whitesides was a strong contender for SEC Freshman of the Year, but still is just the seventh member of the program to make the team – the most recent being Robinson in 2017. 
  • Whitesides finished second on the team with 261 kills while playing in every set over the 22 conference matches. She earned SEC Freshman of the Week honors three times. Her 261 kills in SEC play is the most by a Gamecock freshman in a single conference season during the modern scoring era. She also led the team in serve receptions and finished third in digs and total blocks.
  • On Nov. 12, South Carolina upset No. 4 Florida, snapping a 23-game losing streak to the Gators.
  • Robinson became the seventh woman in program history to reach 400 career blocks on Feb. 27 vs. Missouri. 
  • Ellie Ruprich played like a veteran in her first year. Despite playing a SEC-only schedule, Ruprich’s team-leading 84 blocks ranks third on Carolina’s single-season conference-only record book and is the fourth-highest total by a Gamecock freshman in the rally-scoring era.
  • Camilla Covas showed perhaps the most growth of any sophomore on the roster, anchoring the back line of the defense as the team’s libero in 14 matches. She led the team with 232 digs, reaching double-digit digs in 12 of her 14 starts as the team’s libero, with two 20+ dig performances. Covas also led the team with 27 service aces (0.36 per set), with four games with three or more aces.
  • Coming in as a graduate transfer after a successful career at Coastal Carolina, Kyla Manning showed she can handle the pressure of SEC play with a debut season in Columbia. She led the offense with 273 kills – the third-highest total in SEC play in the modern scoring era – while also totaling 188 digs with just five reception errors on 343 chances in serve reception.
  • Along with Manning, fellow grad transfer Mallory Dixon gave the team a big shot in the arm during her first year as a Gamecock. She was one of three members of the team to play in all 84 sets for the season, dishing out 634 assists while finishing second on the team with 26 service aces, highlighted by a streak of 12 games with at least one ace (1/30 to 3/19).

While the 2020-21 schedule was far from normal on the court, the Gamecocks were business as usual when it came to academics. The group finished the semester with a combined 3.55 GPA in the fall and 3.44 GPA in the spring. South Carolina is going on 12 consecutive seasons on the AVCA’s Team Academic Award list and have put double-digit student-athletes on the SEC’s Fall Academic Honor Roll for six years in a row. This all comes on top of an ambitious course load that spans the world-renowned business school and sports science fields and into engineering and education.

Freshman Lauren McCutcheon will be the next generation of Gamecock from her family as she begins her first season at South Carolina. The Simpsonville, S.C. native is the daughter of Jason Pomar and Kendra Stout; Jason played baseball and football at South Carolina, while Kendra played softball at Carolina. Her mother ranks fourth in program history for games played (259) and led the Gamecocks to the SEC championship and Women’s College World Series in 1997. Her father pitched for the Gamecocks, making 87 appearances over four seasons – tied for sixth in program history – and played for the football team during the 1996 season. Lauren brings an equally impressive resume to the team, having won the 2020-21 Gatorade South Carolina Volleyball Player of the Year award while playing high school ball at J.L. Mann Academy.

She joins two other children of prominent Gamecocks on the current roster. Mikayla Robinson is the daughter of Marcus Robinson, a former wide receiver for the football team who was selected by the Chicago Bears in the 1997 draft and played professionally in the NFL. Kyla Manning is the daughter of Barry Manning, who played in 121 games for the Gamecock men’s basketball team from 1989-92 

With so much of the game decided behind the service line, the Gamecocks will turn to a productive trio to keep the pressure on the opposition this fall. Last season, South Carolina had three individuals record 20 or more aces over the course of the team’s 22 matches. Camilla Covas led the way with 27 in 74 sets, followed closely by Mallory Dixon (26 in 84 sets) and Kyla Manning (24 in 84 sets). They combined for 71 percent of the team’s ace total last season; the last time the Gamecocks had three or more individuals averaging 0.25 aces per set or more in a single season was in 2005. 

Despite a lineup that featured four new starters and a new libero, South Carolina still saw some promising numbers in the serve reception game in the 2020-21 season. As a team, the Gamecocks allowed 1.24 aces per set to their opponents in 2020-21, compared to 1.51 in 2019 and 1.34 in 2018. The team returns its top four passers from last season, a group that accounted for over 90 percent of the team’s total serve receptions. Highlighting the quartet is Kyla Manning, who was aced just five times total in 343 chances in 84 sets played. 

So far this season, the Gamecock passers have allowed 40 aces to opponents through 29 sets played. Manning, Whitesides and freshman Morgan Carter have 19 errors combined in 361 receptions. The serve game has been crucial and a major point of emphasis in coach Tom Mendoza‘s three seasons as head coach; the Gamecocks are 43-7 when matching or surpassing the opposition in aces.

On Aug. 20, it was announced that ten new members have been elected to the University of South Carolina Athletics Hall of Fame, including former volleyball head coach Kim Williams. Williams coached from 1993-2004 and helped put the program back on the map. She took her teams to the NCAA Tournament on six occasions while winning a school-record 236 matches. She posted a .630 winning percentage and recorded eight 20-win seasons. Highlighting her win total is a program-record 104 wins against SEC opponents; for comparison, the program overall has 218 wins in SEC play since joining the conference back in 1991. She was named the SEC Coach of the Year in 1997 and mentored 16 All-SEC team members, many of them collecting multiple honors. 

Since the University of South Carolina Athletics Hall of Fame was created in 1967, 197 members have been selected by the University of South Carolina Association of Lettermen. Williams and the nine other individuals will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Thursday, October 14.

The volleyball program already has four former players enshrined in the hall of fame – all four (Ashley Edlund, Heather Larkin, Cally Plummer and Shonda Cole) played for Williams during their time in Columbia.

Despite a debut season filled with personal and global adversity, the 2020 freshmen class proved to be a key group in the team’s success all season long. Riley Whitesides and Ellie Ruprich started in the season opener and were mainstays in the lineup all year; Whitesides finished second on the team with 261 kills while playing in every single set over the 22 conference matches, earning SEC Freshman of the Week honors three times over the course of the season. Her 261 kills in SEC play is the most by a Gamecock freshman in a single conference season during the modern scoring era. She also led the team in serve receptions and finished third in digs and total blocks. Ruprich dominated at the net, leading the team with 84 blocks. That ranks third on South Carolina’s single-season conference-only record book and is the fourth-highest total by a Gamecock freshman in the rally-scoring era.

Not to be overshadowed, Caitlin Crawford and Kiune Fletcher saw their roles evolve as the season went on. Crawford came in as a serving specialist and ended with six aces and 30 digs while playing in 19 of the team’s 22 matches. Fletcher joined the team late after finding difficulty traveling from her home country of Trinidad and Tobago during the COVID-19 pandemic. After playing in just eight sets in the fall, she ended up seeing the court in nine spring matches.

Fresh off a successful pro season in the Athletes Unlimited league, Taylor Bruns (2009-12) earned a call-up to the United States national team for the Pan American Cup (Sept. 13-19). The tournament pits Team USA against Mexico, Puerto Rico, Canada, Cuba and the Dominican Republic in round robin action before the top four teams play Sept. 18-19 in bracket play to decide the champion. Team USA are winners of three straight Pan American Cups.  Since graduating in 2013 with her degree in education, Bruns made a living playing professionally in Finland, Belgium, Sweden and Germany before joining Athletes Unlimited for its premiere season last summer. She ranks seventh in program history for career assists with 2,858.

In Head Coach Tom Mendoza’s tenure with the team…

  • Home is where the heart is. The Gamecocks are 34-10 at the Carolina VB Center in Mendoza’s three-plus seasons. The team had lost five or more home matches for nine consecutive seasons before 2018.
  • September has been the team’s best month, combining for a 21-4 mark. The highlight came in 2018 with a perfect 9-0 record in September, the first Gamecock squad since 1983 to do so.
  • South Carolina steps up big on Sundays, with a combined 16-5 record on that day of the week.
  • Start fast! The Gamecocks are 49-6 when winning the first set.
  • In five-set matches, the team holds an 15-6 record. In the three years prior, the Gamecocks were just 7-8 in five-setters.
  • The offense has out-hit opponents 57 times and have lost just threetimes when recording a higher hitting percentage.
  • Aces have been a key to victory; under Mendoza the Gamecocks are 43-7 when matching or surpassing opponents in aces.
  • Finding success away from home is trending up. Under Mendoza, the Gamecocks are 24-22 in road or neutral matches. In the five seasons prior to that, they were 30-46 (.395). In 2019 the team’s combined record away from home was 10-9, the first time being over .500 away from home in back-to-back seasons since 2001-02.


  • South Carolina holds an 855-662 (.563) all-time record, dating back to 1973. The team’s 800th win came on Aug. 25, 2018 against Clemson.
  • The Gamecocks joined the SEC for volleyball in 1991, and have an all-time conference record of 216-285 (.432). The 200th SEC win came on Nov. 8, 2019 at Mississippi State.
  • In matches in the Carolina Volleyball Center, Carolina is 224-121 (.649) overall and 116-103 (.530) in SEC matches. The CVC’s 200th win came on Nov. 16, 2018 against Ole Miss.
  • Tom Mendoza became the program’s 13th head coach on Jan. 3, 2018. This is his fifth season overall as a head coach, with a career record of 105-52 and a record of 58-34 at South Carolina. He has led his respective teams to the NCAA tournament in four of his five total years as a head coach.