Volleyball prepares for opening weekend
In preparation for Saturday’s annual Garnet & Black scrimmage, and the season as a whole, coach Scott Swanson developed a strategy for his young Gamecock volleyball team.
“A big thing for us has been managing our risk,” Swanson said. “If it’s a good set, go up and hit it hard. If it’s not a good situation, go up and keep it in play.”
The scrimmage ended in a closely contested 2-2 draw that saw the fourth-set score tied at 26-a-piece before the Black team knotted up the game tally. After seeing his team in its first live action of the year, Swanson was satisfied with the result.
“Overall, I thought it was fairly competitive,” Swanson said. “I thought it got sloppy at times, but we have an awful lot of good athletes out there that can do some nice things, and once they get the experience, we’re going to be pretty good.”
With just two seniors on the roster for 2013 and inexperience at many positions, Swanson has made sure to ingrain this live-to-fight-another-day mentality into his team throughout the preseason.
After the exhibition contest, senior Lindsey Craft echoed her coach’s ideas for big-picture success.
“What we’ve been working on, we call it ‘risk management,’” Craft said, “where we’re not making as many errors as the other team.”
Craft, along with senior Juliette Thevenin and redshirt sophomore Kellie McNeil, was selected by her teammates to be one of the captains of this year’s squad and is not shying away from the pressure that comes with her new title.
“We’ve been trying to step it up and just lead the team because we have such a young group of girls,” Craft said. “We have 10 freshmen and one transfer, so it’s a completely new team so we’re trying to kind of lead by example.”
Craft’s co-captain, Thevenin, will look to close out her Gamecock career this year by expanding on a 2012 season that saw her earn an All-SEC Second Team nod.
“Juliette has been our MVP the last three years,” Swanson said. “She can pass, hit, set, dig and block.”
The 6-foot-2-inch Belgian native led South Carolina in points and kills last season and finished 27th in the country in kills-per-set. Thevenin will enter her senior season with higher expectations than ever, landing on the preseason All-SEC Team this summer.
An overall mark of 18-14 in 2012 masked a disappointing conference tally of 6-14. While Swanson knows the importance of winning SEC contests, he is choosing to focus on improvement, hoping wins come in the process.
“We’re not going to talk a lot about winning and losing right now,” Swanson said. “We have a young team and we don’t want to put the priority or the pressure in their head that they’ve got to win every game.”
The Southeastern Conference will be a tough one to navigate this year, placing two teams in the preseason top-20.
With South Carolina volleyball made up of many fresh faces this season, Swanson is confident that his team has the talent to improve upon a record that was already four games above .500 in 2012.
“With our starting lineup, I feel like we have a chance to be more competitive than last year,” Swanson said. “How much more is yet to be seen.”