Press Release courtesy of South Carolina Athletics
The South Carolina volleyball team will be in the national spotlight Wednesday night, as it hosts Missouri (16-9, 9-3 SEC) for a 6 p.m. match on ESPNU. Tiffany Greene and Missy Whittemore are on the call, as the Gamecocks aim to follow up on last November’s upset of the Tigers at the Carolina Volleyball Center.
Missouri has righted the ship since going 7-6 in non-conference play, entering Wednesday’s match with a 16-9 overall mark. The Tigers have leaned on one of the top blocking defenses in the country to turn things around in SEC play, as their 2.99 blocks per set are tops in the conference and rank seventh nationally. Sophomore Alyssa Munlyn keys that effort with 1.53 blocks per set (seventh-best nationally), and also hits .391 with 2.12 kills per set on offense. The Tiger offense boasts five players with 150 kills or more this season, but nagging injury problems for top hitter Melanie Crow has been a setback for the team. Crow, who hit .254 and averaged 3.97 kills and 0.43 aces per set in 2016, has seen those averages drop to 2.39 and 0.17, respectively, in 2017. Freshman Leketor Member-Meneh has picked up some slack offensively, averaging a team-high 2.72 kills per set while hitting .307 in SEC matches.
The Razorbacks have already matched their highest win total since 2012 with five matches still to play, coming out of the weekend at 17-8 overall and 7-6 in the SEC. A big reason for the turnaround has been the return of All-Region outside hitter Pilar Victoria. The senior missed last season with an injury, but has returned to lead the nation with 5.67 kills per set with an equally impressive .278 hitting percentage despite accounting for 39 percent of the team’s total attacks. Her experience has been important, as the team is made up of 11 freshmen and sophomores. One freshman, Hailey Dirrgl, has been heating up in the last month, averaging 3.50 kills per set since Sept. 27, including 13 against the Gamecocks in Arkansas’ 3-0 win on Oct. 13. Defensively, the Hogs average 2.04 blocks per set, led by Kelly O’Brien’s 1.02. Libero Okiana Valle leads the team with 3.54 digs per set, but Arkansas has five different players who average 1.60 digs or more per set.
LAST TIME VS. ARKANSAS…
South Carolina fell in straight sets in Fayetteville on Oct. 13. The Gamecock offense hit just .091 for the match, with 19 hitting errors. Errors would be the x-factor for the match, as Carolina combined for 35 total errors on the night (19 hitting, six on service, four on serve receive, four on block attempts, two on sets) compared to 20 total errors for Arkansas. The Razorbacks hit .327 in the match, led by 13 kills apiece by Pilar Victoria and Hailey Dirrigl.
WEEKEND NOTABLES (@TENNESSEE, @KENTUCKY)
- South Carolina finished with 69 kills and hit .321 at Tennessee. The 69 kills are a season high, and the hitting percentage is the highest of the SEC season and the best since Sept. 16 at Clemson.
- Thanks to 10 kills from Courtney Furlong at Tennessee, the team had a left side hitter hit 10 or more kills in a match for the first time since facing LSU on Sept. 29, a span of eight matches.
- Courtney Kohler’s 54 assists against Tennessee are a personal best. In total, the sophomore averaged 13 assists per set in the two meetings with Tennessee this season, up from her season average of 9.41.
- Kentucky entered the match hitting .314 as a team, but the Gamecocks limited them to a .215 success rate before the fourth set barrage. South Carolina wasn’t able to score points off serve or on the block, getting just one ace and six blocks compared to eight aces and 10 blocks for Kentucky.
- Courtney McKeag made her first career start at Tennesse, and finished with a career-high seven digs.
- Courtney Koehler broke the program’s sophomore assist record on Sunday, now with 869 so far this season.
- With a solo block in the first set at Kentucky, Mikayla Robinson moved into second for most solo blocks by a freshman in the program’s rally scoring era, with 14.
AN ACE FOR THE AGES
Thanks to her team-high 41 aces so far this season, junior Aubrey Ezell became the first player in the rally-scoring era (since 2001) to eclipse 100 aces, and the first player to reach 100 since Megan Hosp in 2002. In the win over Tennessee on Oct. 1, Ezell reached an even more impressive milestone. She recorded her 117th career ace, moving her into 10th place in program history. She is the first Gamecock to crack the top 10 since 2002. Currently, the Granbury, Texas native leads the SEC with her 41 aces, and ranks 22nd nationally with 0.45 per set.
Here are some stats to track heading into the weekend…
- Aubrey Ezell is one ace away from moving up to seventh in career aces.
- Ezell is also one dig away from entering the top five for single-season digs in the rally-scoring era and matching the record for most digs by a Gamecock junior.
- Mikayla Robinson is five blocks away from the freshman total blocks record, and can also move into the top five for single-season solo blocks in the rally-scoring era with just one more.
- Mikayla Shields needs two more solo blocks to enter the top five for a single season.
- Shields also needs 32 more kills to reach 700 for her career; only one other sophomore has reached 700 kills in the rally-scoring era – current assistant Shonda Cole.
- Courtney Koehler is 200 assists away from the sophomore assist record in the rally-scoring era, after earning the sophomore assist record on Sunday at Kentucky (with 869).
Mikayla Shields is following up a record-breaking freshman season with an even better sophomore campaign in 2017. The Orlando, Fla. native has upped her kills per set from 3.25 to 3.55, and already surpassed her entire 2016 total for digs and ranks second on the team with a 2.54 average per set. Through 24 matches, she has nine double-doubles, the sixth-most of any SEC player.
Over the last five matches…
- The Gamecocks are 1-4, with four of those matches on the road.
- The offense is hitting .188, opponents average 13.4 kills per set and hitting .230.
- Mikayla Robinson has stepped up her game, with a .278 hitting percentage, 2.20 kills and 1.20 blocks per set.
- The service game has been low-risk, low-reward, with just 13 aces (0.65 per set) but also just 35 errors (91.6 percent). Opponents, however, are averaging 1.50 aces per set in the same stretch.
ROBINSON CHASING BLOCK RECORDS IN HOME STRETCH
The Gamecocks knew they had a gem with the arrival of consensus top-25 recruit Mikayla Robinson this summer, and the freshman middle has developed into one of the top young blockers in the conference. She leads all SEC freshmen with 1.02 blocks per set, which also ranks her in the top 200 nationally. On a team level, her 93 total blocks are 34 more than any other Gamecock and are five away from matching the program’s freshman record, set in 2007. Also, her 14 solo blocks already ranks sixth in the rally-scoring era for a single season. She hasn’t just been strong defensively, as her 2.32 kills per set rank second on the team and she leads the way with a .310 hitting percentage.
Aubrey Ezell is on an impressive streak for the Gamecocks. The junior libero has not missed a single set in her career, entering the weekend on a stretch of 85 straight matches played (312 sets). Currently, her 312 total sets played rank 19th in the program’s rally-scoring era, but no other player in this era have played in as many consecutive sets.
SUMMER OF SHIELDS
Sophomore Mikayla Shields expanded her skills over the summer thanks to a stint with Team U.S.A. In April, she was named to the junior national team roster, and won gold with the team at the U20 Pan American Cup in Costa Rica. She was also invited to training camp for the FIVB U20 World Championships, but did not make the 12-woman roster. Shields is the first Gamecock to earn experience on the national team since 2006, when current assistant coach Shonda Cole competed for the U.S.A. Volleyball National A2 Team in 2005 and 2006.
STANDING ROOM ONLY
With 11 home matches in the books, four now rank among the program’s top 10 crowds of all time. In the latest rankings, the Gamecocks come in at No. 31 nationally for cumulative attendance, fifth in the SEC.
WHEN THE GAMECOCKS WIN…
- The team is out-hitting the opposition .313 to .178, and committing 1.64 fewer attack errors per set than in losses.
- Physicality at the net has been the biggest key to winning and losing. In 11 wins, the team averages 2.46 blocks per set while opponents have just 1.32.
- The offense features the middle attackers much more in wins. Starting middles Mikayla Robinsonand Claire Edwards combine for 4.75 kills and hit .389 in wins, but just 3.54 with a .199 percentage in losses.
WHEN THE GAMECOCKS LOSE…
- The offense is hitting just .166 in losses, and the defense is allowing opponents to hit .234. Only one of Carolina’s top five hitters are above .240 through the team’s 13 losses.
- Unforced errors have been the cause for the team’s lower hitting rate. The Gamecocks have made 181 unforced (unblocked) attack errors in the 13 losses, compared to 99 in 11 wins.
- Sunday at Kentucky marked the 18th time this season that the Gamecocks won the first set in a match. This year, the team has a 9-9 record when winning the first set, after going 16-1 last season.
- South Carolina holds a 796-625 (.561) all-time record, dating back to 1973.
- The Gamecocks joined the SEC for volleyball in 1991, and have an all-time conference record of 184-258 (.417).
- In matches in the Carolina Volleyball Center, Carolina 189-108 (.638) overall and 94-91 (.511) in SEC matches.
- Dottie Hampton was elevated to interim head coach on Oct. 4, 2017, she is the 12th head coach in program history. She earned her first win as the interim on Oct. 18 at Auburn.