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Gamecocks Face Cincinnati in First Road Trip
Women's Volleyball  . 

Gamecocks Face Cincinnati in First Road Trip

Women's Volleyball at Cincinnati

South Carolina Gamecocks
South Carolina Gamecocks
Cincinnati Bearcats
Cincinnati Bearcats
Fifth Third Arena | Cincinnati, OH

CINCINNATI, OHIO – South Carolina volleyball (4-1) embarks on its first road trip of the fall this weekend, traveling up to Cincinnati for a two-game series against the Bearcats (5-1). Friday’s opener will be a 6 p.m. first serve, Saturday’s rematch is scheduled for 1:30. Both matches will air on ESPN+.


  • South Carolina’s 18 total blocks against Troy were the most for a four-set match since Sept. 7, 2019 (vs. Kansas). It ties the team’s most for a match of any length under head coach Tom Mendoza.
  • Sunday was Kiune Fletcher’s first extended time on the court since tweaking her ankle in the season opener. The senior responded with 10 kills, a .471 hitting percentage, six digs and five blocks.
  • Freshman Campbell Paris wrapped up a solid week with her most efficient day of offense, hitting .381 on 21 attacks for 11 kills. She also added eight block assists, providing a major combination block with Ellie Ruprich all afternoon.
  • Ruprich finished with 10 total blocks (two solo) to see her finish the week with 25 total blocks.
  • Sydney Floyd’s five service aces are a personal best and the most by any Gamecock since Feb. 10, 2021 (Mallory Dixon, 5 vs. Texas A&M). 


  • Along with her 21 kills against the Hurricanes, McCutcheon also pitched in four total blocks, a service ace and an assist to leave no zeroes in her box score. All that came on top of a career-high 56 serve receptions with just one ace allowed, as Miami targeted her early and often in the match.
  • McCutcheon hit .455 for the match, committing just one error over 44 swings – with the lone error coming on a desperation attempt after a defensive scramble.
  • Every single player who saw the court for Carolina recorded at least one dig, and every attacker who played finished with at least five kills.
  • South Carolina’s 74 total kills against Miami are the most in a match since Nov. 11, 2007.
  • All three setters on the roster played in the match, each surpassing 15 assists.
  • With the win, the Gamecocks are now 23-10 in five-set matches under head coach Tom Mendoza.
  • Junior libero Morgan Carter also had a career night, with 22 total digs to lead all defenders. That improves on her previous high of 19, done twice. 


  • While the Gamecocks rebuild their win streak overall in the series, they did extend their home win streak over Clemson on Wednesday. The Tigers have not won in Columbia since 1994, a streak that now grows to 11 games in a row.
  • The 13 service aces are the most in a match of any length since Sept. 26, 2010 against The Citadel. The total is one behind the record for most aces in a four-set match in the modern scoring era (since 2001), ironically against Clemson on Oct. 10, 2001 (14).
  • It wasn’t just aces that made the difference behind the line, it was also errors. Clemson finished with 15, compared to nine for South Carolina. Combining points scored off aces and points scored off the other team’s errors on serve, the Gamecocks enjoyed a 28-10 advantage behind the line.
  • Riley Whitesides spearheaded the service-line assault, picking up a career-high four aces for the night. Four different Gamecocks recorded two or more aces in the match.
  • Junior middle Oby Anadi set a personal best with four solo blocks in the match, surpassing her previous high of three set last fall. The four solo blocks puts her in a three-way tie for most in a three-set match in the modern scoring era.
  • Morgan Carter was stout as the team’s back-line anchor, leading the team with 17 digs and also adding six assists and a service ace. 

Cincinnati has come out the gates strong in 2023, posting a 5-1 record through the first two weekends with an offense than ranks in the top-20 nationally in three different categories. The most notable is the 14.81 kills per set average, good for eighth in the nation, with SMU grad transfer pin Jadyn Bauss leading the way with 4.33 per set. Right behind her is junior Abby Walker, who not only averages 3.14 kills per set but also is hitting .456 through six matches. The Bearcats will also test South Carolina’s serve defense, currently ranking 12th in the country with 2.38 service aces per set with three individuals ranks in the top 100. Defensively, Marquette grad transfer Carly Skrabak anchors the back line with 4.29 digs per set and has allowed only three aces in 21 sets of serve-receive.

The SEC announced its weekly award winners for volleyball Monday afternoon, with senior middle blocker Ellie Ruprich earning the nod as Defensive Player of the Week. It’s the team’s first honor of the season and the fourth weekly award of Ruprich’s career (2x Freshman of the Week, 2x Defensive). After just five blocks in the first two games of the season, Ruprich erupted and disrupted all week for South Carolina, finishing with 25 total blocks in wins over Clemson, Miami and Troy. Ruprich averaged 1.92 blocks per set, almost matching the combined total of the three opposing teams over the course of the week. In the week’s opening match, against rival Clemson, Ruprich finished with eight blocks, two service aces, four digs and four kills over four sets. In the team’s five-set win over Miami on Friday night, she had seven more blocks with seven kills, and in the weekend finale against Troy she had 10 blocks, her third career match in double-digits.

Few venues feature the atmosphere of the Carolina Volleyball Center, and Gamecock fans are out in full force again to start the 2023 season. A crowd of 3,293 fans weathered a tropical storm on Aug. 30 against Clemson, the total is the second-highest for a home game in program history, just behind the record of 3,458 (also against Clemson, 8/25/2018). That came after last weekend’s total of 5,340 fans for the two-game series against Towson. The team saw three of the top five most well-attended matches in program history happen in the span of six days and seven of the top eight crowds have come under Coach Tom Mendoza’s tenure.

With the five-game season-opening home stand now complete, the Gamecocks rank eighth nationally for total attendance (11,407) and 17th for average attendance (2,281 per game).

In 2022, South Carolina ranked 52nd nationally in average attendance (1,134) and total attendance (15,878), despite having the smallest capacity gym of any team ranked ahead of it.  Dating back to 2014, the Gamecock volleyball program is averaging at least 1,000 fans per game every season.


  • The team dominated Clemson in the serve game on Aug. 30, finishing with a 13-1 advantage in service aces. Among the notable stats:
  • The Gamecocks also were low-error on serve, with nine errors compared to 15 for the Tigers. Combining aces and opponent errors, South Carolina out-scored Clemson 28-10 just in the serve game.
  • The 13 aces are the most by a Carolina team since 2010, for a match of any length. It ranks as the second-most for a four set match in the modern scoring era (since 2001), behind the record of 14 against Clemson on Oct. 10, 2001.
  • The +12 margin for service aces is the most since 2004. The last time the team had a double-digit advantage in the category was Sept. 26, 2010 against The Citadel (13-3). The last time the team had an advantage higher than Wednesday night’s +12 was against Auburn on Oct. 17, 2004 (+16).
  • From just the one game, South Carolina jumped from being ranked 264th in the NCAA for aces per set to 91st.
  • For as good as the servers were, the Gamecock serve defense was equally impressive. The team’s passers were only aced once in the match, the fewest since Nov. 2 of last season vs. Arkansas.
  • It is the 10th time in head coach Tom Mendoza’s tenure (since 2018) that the Gamecocks allowed one ace or fewer in a match.

Two new staff members will help guide the Gamecocks for the 2023 season. Brittany Farrell joined the staff in February, most recently serving as the head coach for the indoor and beach volleyball programs at Spartanburg Methodist College after playing for South Carolina from 2018-19. After starting her collegiate volleyball career at Minnesota, Farrell (née McLean) joined the Gamecocks and finished with 58 career games played at Carolina, totaling 484 kills, 122 digs and 65 total blocks with the team making the NCAA tournament in 2018 and 2019. After graduating cum laude with a bachelor of arts from South Carolina, Farrell earned her master’s in business administration from Stetson while playing for its beach volleyball program.

In March, Mendoza announced the hiring of Madelyn Cole as the program’s director of operations. Cole spent the 2022 season as an assistant coach for Oral Roberts. Prior to that, she served as an assistant coach at Butler University, assisting with recruiting operations and on-court development with setters. In her career as a student-athlete, Cole was a two-time Big East Champion and NCAA Tournament participant at Creighton University from 2018-19, where she was a two-year starter at setter. Cole was named to the All-Big East Team in both seasons and was an AVCA Honorable Mention All-American in 2019. Her first coaching role following her playing career was in 2021, serving as a graduate assistant for Providence College. While at Providence, Cole was named a 2021 AVCA Diversity Award recipient.

Freshman setter Sydney Floyd comes to South Carolina with an impressive family history in the sport of collegiate volleyball. Her mother, Amy Banachowski, played volleyball at UCLA in the early 1990s and her grandfather Andy Banachowski was a two-time all American as an athlete and then coached the Bruins women’s volleyball program from 1965 to 2010. During his tenure, UCLA won six national champinships as a coach, another as a player, and made both the UCLA, AVCA and National Volleyball halls of fame. He retired as the Division I leader for career wins, with 1,106.

Through just five games, Floyd has proven to be a perfect argument for the power of genetics, commanding the team’s offense as its primary setter.  She leads the team with 5.53 assists per set over five matches, also adding 24 digs and eight service aces.

Last fall, South Carolina’s ranked 21st nationally in blocks per set (2.63), thanks in large part to its two starting middles, Ellie Ruprich and Oby Anadi. Ruprich was a known commodity coming into the season – she is just the third player since 1983 to lead the team in blocks in each of their first three seasons – pacing the team again in 2022 with a career-high 130 total blocks. Anadi exploded in her first full season in the lineup, recording 120 blocks.

It’s just the fourth time since 1999 that the Gamecocks had two players hit triple digit blocks in a single season. The two headlined one of the strongest blocking seasons in the program’s modern history. Since the rally scoring era started in 2003, only the 2005 team’s average of 3.02 blocks per set is higher and only in one season (2014) has the team finished with as many games with 10 or more total blocks – both the 2014 and 2022 teams had 14.

The story continues early on in 2023, as South Carolina enters the weekend ranked 23rd nationally in blocks per set (2.85) and first overall in the SEC. Ruprich (1.50 blocks per set) ranks second in the SEC and 24th nationally and Anadi (1.33 blocks per set) ranks fourth and 56th, respectively.

The team brought in four true freshman for the 2023 season, each with a chance to see the court in an impactful way across four different positions:

  • Sydney Floyd (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) is already locked in as one of the team’s two primary setters. Through five games, she leads the team in total assists (with 105) and service aces (8)
  • In the middle, Gabrielle Gerry (Louisville, Ky.) brings an imposing 6-foot-4-inch frame to the roster and played for one of the strongest club teams in the country. She made a good first impression with 10 kills on 20 total attempts in the team’s intra-squad scrimmage along with five blocks, and made her regular season debut in the season opener against Towson.
  • On the pin is Campbell Paris (Barrington, Ill.). Training on both the left and right sides, Paris is the team’s tallest pin hitter and only deepens the team’s blocking depth. Through three games, she ranks third in kills (averaging 2.30 per set) and total blocks (17).
  • The final member of the freshman class is defensive specialist Elizabeth McElveen (Rock Hill, S.C.). As a back-row defender, she may see time early as a serving specialist, in the Garnet and Black scrimmage she had a pair of aces along with 15 digs. She also made her collegiate debut in the season opener vs. Towson.

Senior Kiune Fletcher could very well be the key that unlocks the Gamecock offense in 2023. The athletic right side attacker ended her junior season with numbers that blew her career totals out of the water and a carryover could boost an offense that underachieved at times last fall. In the month of November, totaling eight matches, Fletcher ranked second on the team in kills (with 65) while still providing valuable blocking numbers on the right pin. The final run improved on her first half of SEC play where she hit .066 with 1.21 kills per set over ten games. The highlight of her November run included two games with 15 or more kills in wins against Ole Miss and Auburn.

Senior middle blocker Ellie Ruprich matched her career high for blocks with five games left in the 2022 season and finished with 130 for the season, good for third in the program’s single-season record book. Ruprich also went over 300 total blocks for her career last November, making her the sixth woman in the rally scoring era (since 2003) to reach that milestone. Currently, the Beverly Hills, Michigan native is on the cusp of some rarely contested records. In the rally scoring record book, Ruprich is in range of the solo block record (currently with 78, needs 95) and is 44 total blocks away from reaching 400. Only seven women in the program’s 50 seasons have reached that milestone.

Despite a solid core of returners, the team will still need to replace one of the most important roles on the roster – libero. The team’s 2022 libero, Jenna Hampton, made one heck of a first impression in her lone season at Carolina, culminating with the SEC coaches voting her Libero of the Year.

For the season, Hampton’s 460 digs accounted for over 35 percent of the team’s dig total and was just shy of matching the combined total of team’s second, third and fourth-ranked individuals. Going as far back as formal season stats are available – 1984 – Hampton accounted for a higher percentage of the team’s total digs than any other individual. Only 10 Gamecocks in program history have accounted for more than 25 percent of the team’s total digs in a season and only two had cracked 30 percent – Aubrey Ezell (34.17 percent, 2017) and Hannah Lawing (32.34, 2010).

Despite Hampton’s departure, the team has a familiar face back in the role to start 2023. Junior Morgan Carter was the team’s libero in 2021, she is the only true freshman to ever earn the role for Carolina and she finished with 3.22 digs per set and 18 service aces that year. Through five games, she is averaging 4.15 digs per set – third-best in the SEC – and has a .968 serve reception percentage with three aces allowed over 94 receptions.

South Carolina’s foundation is built on a wealth of experienced passers, bringing back a pair of six-rotation hitters who shouldered quite the load in serve receive last fall. Senior Riley Whitesides and junior Lauren McCutcheon combined for 1,141 total serve receptions last fall and were only aced 61 times. Looking back over the last 20 seasons, Whitesides is one of only two members of the program to finish a season with a reception percentage north of .960 with 700 or more total receptions, the other was Bethanie Thomas in 2012 (700 receptions, .967 reception percentage).

The program improved its streak to 14 seasons in a row earning the AVCA’s Team Academic Award, announced on July 13. The Gamecocks have put 10 or more individuals on the SEC’s Fall Academic Honor Roll for seven seasons in a row and placed 21 total members on either the Fall or First-Year Academic Honor Rolls in the 2022-23 school year. This comes despite an ambitious list of majors that spans the world-renowned business school, sports science fields and engineering and education.

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

  • Home is where the heart is. The Gamecocks are 53-20 (.714) at the Carolina VB Center in Mendoza’s five-plus seasons. The team had lost five or more home matches for nine consecutive seasons before 2018 but have done that just once since then.
  • September is the team’s best month, combining for a 31-10 mark. The highlight came in 2018 with a perfect 9-0 record in September, the first Gamecock squad since 1983 to do so.
  • The team is 67-11 when winning the first set, 16-50 when losing it.
  • In five-set matches, the team holds an 23-10 record. In the three years prior to his arrival, the Gamecocks were just 7-8 in five-setters.
  • The offense finished with a higher hitting percentage than its opponents 80 times and have lost just seven of those matches.
  • Aces have been a key to victory; under Mendoza the Gamecocks are 63-15 when matching or surpassing opponents in aces.
  • If the back line is locked in, the odds swing heavily in South Carolina’s favor; the team has a 42-7 record when finishing with more digs in a match since Mendoza arrived in 2018.

The team’s win over No. 12 Florida on Sept. 25, 2022 secured the fifth season in a row with at least one win over a top-25-ranked opponent. It is the longest streak since joining the SEC in 1991; the next closest streak was three years, from 2001-03. The team has eight top-25 wins under head coach Tom Mendoza; prior to his arrival in 2018, the program had just nine ranked wins in the 26 years since joining the SEC, going 9-110 (.076) between 1991-2017.

South Carolina had eight five-set matches in 2022, the single-season high under head coach Tom Mendoza and tied for the second most in a single season in the rally-scoring era (since 2001). The only seasons with more five-setters are 2014 (9), 2006 (9) and 2008 (8). Of the team’s eight matches to go five last season, six came against SEC rivals. The only season in the rally-scoring era with more in conference play was 2014, when seven of the nine five-setters came against SEC teams. Under Mendoza, South Carolina is 23-10 in five-set matches, compared to 42-43 (.494) in the 17 seasons prior.


  • South Carolina holds an 870-685 (.559) all-time record, dating back to 1974. 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 229-310 (.424) in the 31st season as a member. The 200th SEC win came on Nov. 8, 2019 at Mississippi St.
  • The team has a 17-15 overall record in the opening game of SEC play.
  • In matches in the Carolina Volleyball Center, opened in 1996, Carolina is 243-131 (.647) overall and 124-112 (.530) in SEC matches. The CVC’s 200th win came on Nov. 16, 2018 against Ole Miss.
  • Tom Mendoza was introduced as the program’s 13th head coach on Jan. 3, 2018. This is his seventh season overall as a head coach, with a career record of 130-81 and a record of 83-63 at South Carolina. He has led his teams to the NCAA tournament in five of his seven years as a head coach and is just the fourth coach in program history to reach 75 career wins.