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Spartans Conclude First Season Of Division I Competition

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Sophomore Katie Downey led the Spartans with 96 blocks, an average of 1.03 per game, finsihing fourth in the Atlantic Sun Conference.

Sophomore Katie Downey led the Spartans with 96 blocks, an average of 1.03 per game, finsihing fourth in the Atlantic Sun Conference.

Dec. 5, 2007

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SPARTANBURG, S.C. - The 2007 Upstate volleyball season was a historic one for the program and 12th-year head coach Jennifer Calloway, as the Spartans entered Division I and the Atlantic Sun Conference. The team, despite battling injuries and the toughest schedule in school history, managed an 11-17 mark and a ninth-place finish in the Atlantic Sun Conference.

Hodge Hecklers Return
When the USC Spartanburg men's basketball team won the NAIA title in 1982, the then-Rifles credited the fans at the Hodge Center for tremendous support throughout the season. The student section at the 1,535-seat gymnasium was known as the Hodge Hecklers. Fast forward 25 years, a school and a nickname change and the USC Upstate volleyball team entered NCAA Division I with the largest crowd to ever watch a volleyball match at the Hodge Center, with 837 fans crossing through the gates for Aug. 25's match against Wofford during the season-opening Fatz Cafe USC Upstate Tournament.

A Month At A Time
USC Upstate concluded the season by posting three months with 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 finished at an even .500 with a 2-2 mark.

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.

What A Start
In their first game in the Division I era, the Spartans did something they hadn't done in at least five years, posting a .462 hitting percentage (37-7-65) against Savannah State. The team posted just seven errors and split their 37 kills amongst nine players. Sophomore Jesicah Ambrisco led the team with eight kills in 10 attempts. Freshman Sandra Campbell added six kills while sophomore Katie Downey, junior Jovana Lubura and junior Angie Varnum each had five kills. The .462 hitting percentage was the third-highest of the season among Atlantic Sun members.

Campbell's Touch
Thanks to a hefty .429 hitting percentage and her role in leading the USC Upstate volleyball team to three wins, freshman middle blocker Sandra Campbell earned Atlantic Sun Conference Player of the Week honors for the week of Nov. 4. The award was the Spartans' first volleyball weekly honors in the Atlantic Sun Conference. She led Upstate to an upset of Mercer, who was 6-3 in the Atlantic Sun Conference at the time, posting her first career double-double with 17 kills and 10 blocks against Mercer in five-game win. The 10 blocks is the eighth-best total in the A-Sun this year. She posted three 10-kill games, including 10 in a three-game sweep of Savannah State on Tuesday, hitting .368, and notching 12 kills and hitting .400 against Kennesaw State in another sweep. During the week, Campbell had just nine errors and hit .429 while nailing down 39 kills.

Block Party
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.

A Grand Milestone
Sophomore Morgan Bucciferro became just the ninth player in school history to reach 1,000 career assists when she fed freshman Megan Healey for a kill in the third game of a four-game win against S.C. State on Sunday. The Minooka, Ill., native is seventh in school history with her 1,378 career assists. Just one week later, junior Holly Mauldin became the 10th player in school history to reach 1,000 career assists. Mauldin reached the mark on a kill from junior Jenna Leslie in the third game of the Spartans' five-game loss to North Florida on Friday night. Mauldin posted 33 assists in the match. She is ninth in school history with 1,281 career helpers.

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.

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 Nov. 2, 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 Nov. 3, Upstate warmed up late, 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.

Stuck In The Middle
Sophomore Katie Downey has a rollercoaster sophomore season that saw the 6-0 miss two matches with both shoulder and knee injuries, but also saw her set career-highs in kills, digs and tying her career-high in blocks.Downey notched an average of 2.85 kills per game and 1.03 blocks per game. She showed she had the ability to be a leader in the Atlantic Sun Conference, finishing fourth in blocks per game and 10th in points per game (3.74). She also added 1.08 digs per contest.

Dig `Em
Freshman Megan Healey has been a key to the back row for the Spartans all season long, posting 10 or more digs in 20 of her 27 matches. The Spartan libero added six 20-dig matches, including a 25-dig effort against Presbyterian on Nov. 6 and a career-high 26-dig effort against Wofford on Aug. 25. Although her 3.76 digs per game average sat just outside the conference's top 10, Healey's 0.41 aces per game average finished ninth. Healey, from St. Louis, Mo., posted 380 digs during the season, which already puts her in the school's career top 40, finishing the year in 39th place.

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 athletes that returned to the Spartans in 2007 maintain 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.

USC Upstate Women's Volleyball
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