Oct. 29, 2007
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SPARTANBURG, S.C. - After playing seven of its last 10 games on the road, the USC Upstate volleyball team will get to finish the season with an extended, five-match stay in the Hodge Center, starting with a Tuesday match against Savannah State on Tuesday at 6 p.m. The Spartans began the Division I era on Aug. 24 against the Tigers, posting a 3-0 win and hitting a season-high .462 in the win. The Spartans are looking to finish October with an even .500 record, as a win would give them a 4-4 record in the month while the Tigers, at 4-20, will look for their first win this season against Division I competition.
This weekend, the Spartans will wrap up the conference season, starting with a 7 p.m. Friday match against Mercer. The Tigers, after struggling in the non-conference part of their schedule, enter the final weekend at 6-3 in A-Sun play. Jen Darty has led the Tigers in A-Sun action, hitting .344 and averaging 2.77 kills per game and 1.10 blocks per game.
On Saturday, the Spartans will conclude their first season in the A-Sun by hosting Kennesaw State at 3 p.m. Although both schools were members of the Peach Belt Conference, the two squads have never met, as Kennesaw State began competing in volleyball in 2006. Ginny Frederick leads the Owls, averaging 7.7 assists per game.
Freshman Sandra Campbell has played herself into position to earn Atlantic Sun All-Freshman honors during the last eight matches. The 6-1 middle blocker has averaged 2.57 kills during that stretch, posting two 13-kill matches, on the road in Atlantic Sun Conference matches against Stetson and Campbell, during the stretch and added 20 blocks, including a season-high six at Campbell. The Pilot Point (Texas) High graduate is averaging 2.36 kills and 0.71 blocks during conference play and her 96.5 points in conference play is third on the squad.
Sophomore Jesicah Ambrisco is starting to make waves in the Atlantic Sun Conference with her steady play. Thanks to a 3.83 kills per game average and .298 hitting clip in the Spartans' last four matches, the Iowa City, Iowa, native is sixth in the conference in kills per game, averaging 3.47 per match. She posted 19 kills against Stetson before Ambrisco posted a match-high 11 kills and added three blocks in Upstate's sweep over Winston-Salem State. The sophomore added a team-high 22 kills, her third game of 20 or more kills this season, in a five-game loss to Gardner-Webb and added a team-high 17 kills at Campbell. In all, Ambrisco has 74 points in 18 games during the last four matches, an average of 4.1 per game, helping to move her into ninth in the conference in points per game (3.72).
Freshman Megan Healey has been a key to the back row for the Spartans all season long, posting 10 or more digs in 17 of her 22 matches. The Spartan libero and Atlantic Sun All-Freshman Team candidate has added five 20-dig matches, including a 20-dig effort at Campbell on Saturday and a career-high 26-dig effort against Wofford on Aug. 25. Both her 3.71 digs per game and her 0.39 service aces per game averages sit just outside the conference's top 10.
During the Spartans' 3-0 sweep against Winston-Salem State on Friday, the Spartans hit a strong .304 during the match, the third time this season the team has hit more than .300. Upstate posted a school DI-record in its first match at the new level, hitting a smoking .462 in a three-game win against Savannah State. The Spartans also crossed the .300 mark with a strong .324 mark at Winston-Salem State on Oct. 2.
New Look For Leslie
When head coach Jennifer Calloway changed the lineup before the Florida Gulf Coast match, junior Jenna Leslie had posted just one kill and six digs in the previous five matches, combined. In the five matches since, the Houston, Texas, native has led the Spartans by averaging 3.0 digs per game and she has added 0.74 kills and 0.32 blocks. She notched a career-high 16 digs in the five-match win against Stetson on Oct. 13 and posted the game-winning kill in the fifth and deciding game with a touch kill that split the Hatters' front and back rows. Against Gardner-Webb, Leslie chipped in with five kills and 15 digs, four assists, two aces and three blocks. She added 10 digs at Campbell.
Lubura's Reaches New High
Junior Jovana Lubura, who has battled a nagging back injury all season, posted a career-high 18 kills on Oct. 13 as the Spartans beat Stetson in five games. The Beograd, Serbia, native, gave the Spartans a huge lift, as she hit .349 in the match and she added two straight kills in the fifth game to give Upstate a 10-7 lead. She has continued her hot stretch, posting six kills in just 13 attempts against Winston-Salem State on Oct. 19, tying her career-high with 18 kills against Gardner-Webb on Oct. 20 and adding 15 more kills at Campbell.. She has averaged 3.17 kills per game and hit .293 in the last three matches.
The MEAC Daddy
With the 3-0 win over Winston-Salem State on Oct. 19, the Spartans improved to 5-0 on the season and 5-1 since joining the NCAA against Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference opponents. The Spartans have dropped just two games to MEAC schools this season, as they downed S.C. State, 3-1, on Sept. 15 and Hampton, 3-1, on Sept. 14. The team also swept S.C. State at home on Aug. 28 and Winston-Salem State on the road on Oct. 2. The Spartans held MEAC schools to a paltry .107 hitting percentage in 2007.
A Classy Bunch
While USC Upstate athletes have had a history of success in the classroom, there is no doubt that volleyball has been one of the most successful athletic programs in the classroom. All six returning athletes have GPAs above 3.0 and all six were recognized on the Peach Belt Conference Presidential Honor Roll during the 2006 season. While juniors Jennifer Joraskie (graphic design major), Jenna Leslie (nursing major) and Holly Maudlin (physical education major) earned the award for the second time in their careers, sophomores Jesicah Ambrisco (elementary education major), Morgan Bucciferro (communications major) and Katie Downey (special education major) earned the honor for the first time.