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8. The Lady Rifle volleyball team wins 30 straight matches at the Hodge.

It was one of the more remarkable winning streaks in school history. It lasted parts of four seasons. It lasted through three coaches. It persevered, thanks to a dedicated and attentive group of student-athletes, who were able to focus through turmoil.

The teams accounted for five championships, two Peach Belt regular-season titles and three tournament titles.

The streak started with the last match of the 1992 season at the Hodge, as the Rifles dispatched Newberry in three sets. It continued in 1993, as second-year head coach Chris Sturgill built the Rifles into a powerhouse. With All-Peach Belt hitters Jan Chapmen and Jennifer Jones and setter Dawn Thoutman, the Rifles won 24 straight matches at one point, earning a share of the Peach Belt regular season title before claiming the Peach Belt Tournament title. At the Hodge Center, the Rifles won 12 matches during the season, dropping just six sets during that time.

In 1994, all the pieces were there for success. The team returned four starters from the 34-6 team from 1993, and Sturgill was optimistic.

"The core of our team is still intact," he said. "Everyone is comfortable with what we are doing."

So comfortable, that even after Sturgill left the team days before the season started that the team didn't sweat a quickly-found replacement. Chris Hawkins, recently hired as USCS' softball coach, took on the additional responsibility with an interim tag.

The team responded to the adversity by continuing a 32-match winning streak that finally ended in Jacksonville State's Tournament in late October. The Rifles returned home after the tournament, though, and won their last three matches of the year at the Hodge Center, finishing the season 16-0 at home.

The team continued on, earning a national ranking of 24th late in the season, but a fourth-place finish at the South Regionals ended the team's Division II Tournament hopes. Still, they picked up the Peach Belt Tournament title at USC Aiken to conclude a 38-4 season. Jennifer Jones was named the Peach Belt Player of the Year and Jolene Person and Heidi Ryan each earned All-Peach Belt honors.

In 1995, Hawkins left the team to focus on softball, where he has since won more than 500 matches with the Spartans, and Dr. Joe Bowman took on the interim tag with a team that had just two returners.

Before the season, Bowman said, "Our success will depend on the blending of this youth with our returning players. The leadership we get is essential to continue the strong volleyball tradition at USCS."

With the winning streak at 29 matches, Bowman's team beat Gardner-Webb, 3-0, in the home opener before Wingate finally snapped the streak at 30 matches in a five-set thriller.

Still, the 1995 team went on to a third straight Peach Belt Tournament title at the Hodge Center, leaving another notch in volleyball's Hodge Center legacy.

USC Upstate Women's Volleyball
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