Nov. 5, 2007
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SPARTANBURG, S.C. - Opening up a five-game homestand to conclude its season with a perfect 3-0 mark, the USC Upstate volleyball team will look to close the season on a roll, hosting Presbyterian on Tuesday at 7 p.m. and UNC Asheville on Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Hodge Center. Both games will be available through ASun.TV's live video streaming package. Both matches will be rematches from earlier this year, with the Spartans dropping a 3-0 decision to Presbyterian on Sept. 18 and a 3-1 match to UNC Asheville on Sept. 1.
The Blue Hose enter the week with a 19-12 overall record, as they conclude their first season in Division I after moving up from Division II. Led by senior Lauren Mason, who averages 4.61 kills and 3.30 digs per match, the Blue Hose met USC Upstate and won 3-0 during a 15-match winning streak earlier in the season. Since the streak ended, the Blue Hose are 4-8.
On Thursday, the Spartans will close the season with the rematch against UNC Asheville. The Bulldogs, who are 9-21 overall and 2-10 in the Big South, are led by Kelsey Benorden, who averaged 3.96 kills and 3.33 digs per game. The Bulldogs struggled with the Spartans during the first meeting, winning the first game 30-28 and the deciding fourth game, 31-29.
A Month At A Time
USC Upstate will conclude the season having posted three months with at least a .500 mark during the four-month volleyball season. The Spartans opened the season with a 2-2 August and after a 3-9 September posted a 4-4 October, clinching the .500 mark with a 3-0 sweep of Savannah State on Tuesday. Thanks to the Spartans 2-0 start to November with wins against Mercer and Kennesaw State, the team will once again finish the month with at least a .500 mark. With a win against Presbyterian or UNC Asheville, the Spartans will finish a month above .500 for the first time in the Division I era.
Entering last weekend, the Spartans were in danger of finishing in last place in their conference for the first time since tying for fifth in the Peach Belt Conference in 1992. Tied for 11th with North Florida as the weekend play began, the Spartans jumped into a tie for 10th-place after a 3-2 upset win over Atlantic Sun Tournament five-seed Mercer on Friday. A 3-0 win over Kennesaw State on Saturday moved the Spartans into sole possession of ninth place in the final A-Sun standings.
Freshman Sandra Campbell has played herself into position to earn Atlantic Sun All-Freshman honors during the last 11 matches. The 6-1 middle blocker has averaged 2.83 kills and 0.88 blocks per game during that stretch. Campbell has turned it up in the last three games, helping the Spartans to three wins, and leading the team with a 3.55 kill and 1.4 blocks per game average. She posted the team's first 10-block performance in Division I on Saturday against Mercer, adding 17 kills for her first career double-double. During the stretch, she has posted 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 averaged 2.58 kills and 0.91 blocks, finishing second on the team with a .234 hitting percentage.
Led by a career-high 10 blocks from freshman Sandra Campbell, the fifth-best effort in the Atlantic Sun this year, and a career-high six blocks from junior Jenna Leslie, the Spartans posted a season-high 15 blocks in their five-game win over Mercer on Saturday. Six Spartans contributed at least one block, with junior Tijana Knezevic posting five, sophomore Katie Downey adding four and sophomore Jesicah Ambrisco notching three. The 15 blocks are tied for eighth-best in the A-Sun this year and easily surpassed the Spartans' previous best of 11.5 blocks against Wofford on Sept. 14.
Ambrisco Anties Up
Sophomore Jesicah Ambrisco is starting to make waves in the Atlantic Sun Conference with her steady play. Thanks to a 3.79 kills per game average and .268 hitting clip in the Spartans' last seven matches, the Iowa City, Iowa, native is sixth in the conference in kills per game, averaging 3.50 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. Ambrisco also added a match-high 14 kills against Savannah State on Tuesday and a team-high 18 against Mercer on Friday.
Coming Up Big On The Backrow
Freshman Megan Healey has been a key to the back row for the Spartans all season long, posting 10 or more digs in 18 of her 25 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. Although her 3.67 digs per game average is just outside the conference's top 10, Healey's 0.42 aces per game average is eighth.
After hitting more than .300 just three times during the Spartans' first 24 matches of the season, the Spartans posted two .300-hitting performances to close the Atlantic Sun Conference season. On Friday, Upstate posted its first .300-hitting match in a match that wasn't a sweep, hitting .343 in a five-game win against Mercer. Led by a .484 hitting percentage from freshman Sandra Campbell, a .457 clip from sophomore Katie Downey and a .375 percentage from Jovana Lubura, the Spartans posted 79 kills and just 20 errors in 172 chances. On Saturday, Upstate warmed up, hitting .346 in the third game of a sweep of Kennesaw State to post a .301 average in the match. Downey hit a hefty .625 and Campbell added a .400 average against the Owls.
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.