Gamecocks Hit Road to Face Georgia, Auburn
South Carolina looks to take a road SEC win to break slide
COLUMBIA, S.C. - South
Carolina takes to the road this weekend, heading to Georgia and Auburn
for important Southeastern Conference matches. Friday's contest in
Athens begins at 7 p.m. in the Ramsey Student Center, while Sunday's
match starts at 1:30 p.m. CDT in Auburn's Student Activities
South Carolina Among Nation's Best
matches into the season, the Gamecocks are among the nation's top 50 in
four stat categories. The highest ranking comes in digs, where the
squad's 17.94 average ranks ninth. Offensively, South Carolina is 21st
in assists (13.15), 26th in kills (14.06) and 41st in hitting (.250).
The full stats breakdown for the Gamecocks come on page seven of the
PDF version of the notes linked above.
700 And Counting
the 39th year of sponsoring volleyball, South Carolina has been to
seven NCAA Tournament and posted 17 20-win seasons in history. On Sat.,
Sept. 10, the Gamecocks tallied the 700th win in program history,
dispatching College of Charleston in five for the win. Not content
there, the Gamecocks started the climb to the next double-round number
with a sweep of Winthrop. South Carolina is the sixth team in the SEC
to compile 700 wins in program history, following Florida, Georgia,
Kentucky, LSU, and Tennessee.
A Decade Since This Feat
Carolina was the last team to take a defeat in 2011, matching a feat
last done in 2001. That team started 6-0 before falling in their first
match of conference play against No. 10 Florida in a five-set thriller.
That season was the middle of a three-season run of NCAA appearances
for the Gamecocks. It was also the first season of rally scoring in
The Improvement Is Easy to See
Carolina has already surpassed its win total from 2010 before starting
SEC play. To put that in perspective, the Gamecocks did not win their
seventh match of the season until the 27th match last season on Nov.
13, 79 days into the season. They did not win their first match of the
year until Sept. 10, which was the third weekend of play. The 2011
edition won its first seven matches inside the first eight days of the
Once Again, South Carolina Among the Youngest
tying for the nation's lead with nine freshmen on the roster last year,
the Gamecocks are still among one of the youngest teams in the country.
According to data compiled by Brian Wolff at Buffalo, the 12
underclassmen (freshmen and sophomores) rank eighth in the country in
number. By percentage of roster members, the Gamecocks' 75 percent mark
stands sixth in the country. A pair of historically-strong programs
also make the list, with Penn State and Hawaii also making the top 10
Carolina Relying on Rookies Early in 2011
Carolina is a young team, as you likely read above. Two of the
freshmen, outside hitters Hanna Forst and Bethanie Thomas, have latched
onto starting roles already. Thomas stands second on the team with her
2.35 kills average and third with a 2.89 digs average. Forst ranks
fifth on the team in kills per set (1.88) and digs per set (2.17). They
join three sophomores, a junior and a senior in the typical rotation.
Top 50 in Gamecock History
pair of Gamecocks moved into the top 50 on South Carolina's all-time
lists in 2011. Senior Teresa Stenlund now stands 50th in kills with 368
for her career, while sophomore Juliette Thévenin moved into the top 50
in digs, where she's currently 47th with 396. Thévenin also ranks in
the top 50 in kills (531, 36th), attacks (1,423, 36th) and points
(599.0, 46th) while Stenlund is in the top 40 in blocks solo (28,
T-28th), block assists (124, T-38th) and total blocks (152, 37th).
setter Taylor Bruns ranks 11th in school history in assists (1,420),
passing Petra Lorenzi during the College of Charleston Invitational.
She's now 49th in aces with 48 and 48th in digs with 374 in her career.
Belgian Sensation Picking up Where She Left Off
Thévenin started 2011 much as she finished 2010, when she earned SEC
All-Freshman Team honors and became the fifth freshman since 1983 to
lead the Gamecocks in kills, joining Lori Rowe, Cally Plummer, Berna
Dwyer and Lynae Vanden Hull with that distinction.
earned her first SEC Offensive Player of the Week award after the
opening weekend of play when she averaged 4.80 kills and 4.90 digs per
match during the Temple Invitational. The sophomore also claimed
tourney MVP and most valuable attacker honors at the event. She also
gained all-tourney accolades at the College of Charleston Invitational.
She currently ranks fourth in the SEC in kills and points and eighth in
the league in digs.
Taylor Bruns Guides Offense in Impressive Start
setter Taylor Bruns twice earned all-tournament team accolades in 2011,
leading the fourth-most efficient attack in the SEC and the 41st in the
nation at .250. In the top 30 in NCAA Division I in kills and assists,
Bruns is fifth in the SEC and 59th in the country in assists (10.57).
the Gamecock Invitational, the squad posted a .325 mark, while Bruns
recorded 18 kills in 13 sets and hit .556 while also landing a pair of
Thomas Standing Tall
Freshman outside hitter Bethanie
Thomas impressed the Gamecock coaching staff from the first day of
practice this fall. They got the early glimpse at what was to come, as
the freshman has played in every match and ranks second on the team in
kills (2.35 per set) and third in digs (2.89 per set). What may be most
impressive is her 219 serve receptions with only two errors, by far the
best percentage on the team.
The MVP of the Gamecock
Invitational, she hit .391 and ranked second on the team in kills and
third in digs during the event. Those are the same places she ranks in
the team standings as well. Thomas's best outing came against Elon,
where she hit .577 with 16 kills and eight digs. That came on the heels
of her posting her first double-double with 11 kills and 10 digs in the
sweep of Davidson.
Stenlund Stands Strong as Lone Senior
only senior on this year's squad, Teresa Stenlund is providing a steady
presence in the middle. She ranks third on the team in kills (2.11 per
set), while she been a larger presence at the net, posting 0.86 blocks
Stenlund has tended to save her best for the home
tournament. Last season, Stenlund tied a 27-year-old record with five
solo blocks in the three-set affair against Lipscomb during the
Gamecock Invitational. During this year's event, she hit .393 and
averaged 1.45 blocks per set, tops on the team.
Wheeler Posting Gaudy Numbers
Paige Wheeler came into the season fighting to be the one to fill the
huge shoes of Hannah Lawing and, before her, Sarah Cline in the libero
role. So far, she played well, leading the team and ranking third in
the SEC with 4.32 digs per set. The sophomore earned all-tournament
team honors at the College of Charleston Invitational, averaging five
digs per set during the event. She posted the third 30+ dig contest in
the SEC this season with 31 in the win over College of Charleston.
the second week of play in the Gamecock Invitational, she out-dug the
SEC's Defensive Player of the Week, Kentucky's Stephanie Klefot. The
Wildcats' back-row specialist totaled 63 digs, a 5.00 average, while
Wheeler tallied 67 digs, good for a 5.15 average. The Gamecocks' top
digger, Wheeler tied for third on the four-set match charts with 28
digs in the Elon win. Also, she landed four aces during the Gamecock
Frankie's Not Working in Vain
blocker Frankie Vain captured Gamecock Invitational All-Tournament Team
accolades after hitting .519 in the four matches, posting 2.31 kills
per set in the process. The St. Louis product also tied classmate Paige
Wheeler with four aces in the event, tops on the team. She tied her
career best with 10 kills against Gardner-Webb to start the event
before posting back-to-back .538 hitting marks against Davidson and
Similar Numbers Between Setters in Friday's Contest
two setters in Friday's contest show many statistical similarities.
Kathleen Gates and Taylor Bruns are fourth and fifth in the SEC in
assists, respectively, and they have combined for 10 double-doubles
(six for Bruns, four for Gates). Bruns has served 0.22 aces per set
this year, just ahead of Gates' 0.20 average. Gates has one year of
experience on Bruns, a junior.
into Friday's contest with a 5-9 overall record and a 1-3 mark in
league play. The Bulldogs are in the middle of the pack in the SEC in
assists, kills, blocks and aces, but they are not a very efficient
hitting team and have problems on the back row. While libero Allison
Summers stands fifth in the league with a 3.80 digs average, her team
is last with a 12.98 mark.
The Dogs are led by a trio of
hitters, with Brittany Northcutt topping the team with 3.11 kills per
set. She's also second on the squad with 2.11 digs per frame. Kathleen
Luft (2.97 kills per set) and Tirah Le'au (2.92 kills per set) provide
good options for setter Kathleen Gates, who dishes out 10.86 assists
per frame. Elizabeth Reid (.271 hitting percentage, 0.91 blocks per
set) and Ann Dylla (.242, 1.02) provide a strong presence in the
middle. Briana Bahr (2.50 kills average, .260 hitting) also helps the
Series History vs. the Bulldogs
Carolina and Georgia have met 60 times, the most meetings in a series
for the Gamecocks. Georgia holds a 44-16 advantage in the series,
including a season sweep last year. The Carolina Gamecocks are 7-18
when playing the Bulldogs in Athens, but the last 15 meetings in
Bulldog territory have been more even, with South Carolina taking their
seven wins during that timeframe since 1996.
pairs of clubmates from both South Carolina and Georgia face off on
Friday night in Athens. Former A5 club members Brandi Byers and Lindsey
Craft both played with the club and can see Georgia's A5 alums Nicole
Choi and Gaby Smiley.
Auburn enters the
weekend with an 8-6 record and a 2-2 mark in SEC play. The Tigers rank
in the bottom three in the SEC stat rankings in every category, yet
they have more kills, assists, digs and blocks than their foes this
Kelly Fidero paces the Tiger attack, leading the team
with a 2.91 kills average while ranking second in hitting (.280).
Camila Jersonsky tops the team in hitting (.363) and ranks third with
2.00 kills per set. Sarah Bullock ranks second on the team in kills
(2.59 per set) and third in digs (2.22 per frame). Chloe Rowand leads
the team with 1.03 blocks per set, but she's played just half of the
sets in SEC play so far. A team that played the 6-2 early, Auburn has
started utilizing Chelsea Wintzinger as its lone setter in SEC play, as
she averages nine assists per set in the four league matches. MacKenzy
Harper leads the Tigers with 2.86 digs per set.
Series History vs. the Tigers
Gamecocks hold an 20-10 advantage in the series against Auburn.
Surprisingly, South Carolina has done better at Auburn (10-4) than at
home (9-6) in the series. However, the Tigers have taken the last two
meetings in the Student Activities Center, including a sweep last
Reuniting Teammates . . . Part Two
A number of
friends meet each other on the court on the Plains of Alabama this
Sunday. Gamecock redshirt freshman Cara Howley gets to see high school
foes and fellow Skyline club members Sarah Bullock and Katherine
Culwell, both juniors on the Tigers' roster. Bethanie Thomas can
reconnect with Chelsea Wintzinger, both from the Huntsville area in
northern Alabama. While both from Irvine, Calif., Teresa Stenlund and
Sarah Wroblicky never teamed up in club or high school.
Carolina's players have posted outstanding individual efforts this
fall, with many registering on the single-match charts for the
Gamecocks. Sophomore Juliette Thévenin registered on two lists during
the team's season-opening win over Montana. Her 21 kills and 50 attacks
both tied for fourth on the three-set match list.
Gamecock Invitational, freshman Bethanie Thomas's .577 hitting
percentage against Elon became the fifth-best performance on the
four-set match list. And sophomore Paige Wheeler tallied 28 digs
against the Phoenix, tied for third on that list.