USC Looks To Start New Streak At Gamecock Invitational

Sept. 14, 2004

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Gamecock Invitational - Columbia, S.C.
Notre Dame • Michigan State • South Carolina • #2 USC

at South Carolina - Friday, Sept. 17, 7 p.m. ET
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vs. Notre Dame - Saturday, Sept. 18, 3 p.m. ET
Follow with Live Stats at

vs. Michigan State - Sunday, Sept. 19, 11:30 a.m. ET
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The Facts
The defending back-to-back NCAA and Pac-10 champion USC women's volleyball team (5-1) hopes to start a new winning streak this week at the Gamecock Invitational in Columbia, S.C. The second-ranked Women of Troy, who lost their No. 1 ranking after dropping their first match in nearly two years last week, are starting off with a clean slate as they prepare to play three matches in three days. The Trojans face host South Carolina (5-2) on Friday, Sept. 17, at 7 p.m. ET, go up against Notre Dame (4-3) on Saturday, Sept. 18, at 3 p.m. ET, and complete the week against Michigan State (5-1) on Sunday, Sept. 19, at 11:30 a.m. ET. All matches can be followed with Live Stats at An audio broadcast of the USC-South Carolina match-up will also be available.

The Women of Troy came home with a win and a loss from last week's State Farm Illini Volleyball Classic, Sept. 10-11. USC defeated American, 3-0, but fell to 16th-ranked Illinois, 3-2, in front of a nearly sold-out Illini crowd. Emily Adams and Keao Burdine were named to the all-tournament team. It ended USC's NCAA record 52-match winning streak and marked the first nonconference tournament the Women of Troy have not won since 2001.

The Rankings
USC fell to No. 2 in this week's USA Today/CSTV AVCA Coaches Top 25 Poll as a result of last week's loss. The Women of Troy still pulled in 22 of the possible 65 first-place votes. As of Sept. 8, the Women of Troy were ranked No. 1 in the Volleyball magazine poll.

Sitting At The Top
USC's drop to No. 2 also ended the Trojans' 23-week stay at the top of the AVCA poll. The Trojans have spent 50 weeks ranked in the top 5 and 68 weeks ranked in the top 10 (dating back to the start of the 2000 season).

Win Streak Is Put To Rest
The NCAA can now close its record books - USC's 52-match win streak is over. The streak, which began on Nov. 8, 2002, and officially ended on Sept. 11, 2004, is the longest in the history of NCAA volleyball. The loss to Illinois also put an end to the Trojans' 48-match road win streak, spanning the same amount of time. Still alive is USC's home win streak, which currently stands at 21 consecutive home victories (Nov. 21, 2002 - ).

**The 52 straight wins is an NCAA record, but not a USC record. The Women of Troy won 56 straight matches from Nov. 27, 1976, through Sept. 27, 1978, as a part of the AIAW.

During The Streak
Not only did the Women of Troy win an impressive 52 consecutive matches, but during that time the team collected a 156-14 single game record (winning 91.8 percent of its games).

Only The Best Competition
Four of USC's six opponents have been ranked and all have been among the top 16. In comparison, current No. 1 Minnesota (7-1) is the only other school in the top 10 to have already faced four ranked opponents (all in the top 15). Next on the list is No. 6 UCLA (6-1) and No. 7 Hawai'i (6-0), who have each faced three ranked foes, including each other.

Six Degrees of Separation
Each team in this week's Gamecock Invitation has a connection with Troy. South Carolina athletic director Mike McGee served as athletic director at USC for nine years (1984-93). Notre Dame's head volleyball coach is former Trojan All-American outside hitter Debbie (Landreth) Brown (1976-77). Michigan State head coach Chuck Erbe was USC's first volleyball head coach (1976-77, 79-88), who lead the Women of Troy to four national titles.

So which one is the real 'USC' - Southern California or South Carolina? South Carolina came first, founded in 1801, 79 years before Southern California. But in the world of sports, which school put 'USC' on the map?

Injury Report
Freshman outside hitter Jessica Gysin suffered a severe sprained left ankle in the first week of training camp. She will be sidelined for 4-6 weeks, hopefully by the start of conference play on Sept. 24.

Team Co-Captains
This year's team co-captains, as voted on by the players, are seniors Emily Adams and Alicia Robinson. The is the first year Robinson has held the role and the second-consecutive year for Adams.

USC First To Repeat As NACWAA Champions
It was a quick start to the 2004 season for the Women of Troy, who faced two highly-ranked opponents in just the first week of play at the NACWAA Volleyball Classic in Fort Collins, Colo., Sept. 27-28. With four new starters in the lineup, the Trojans managed to get past No. 12 Georgia Tech, 3-0, and No. 4 Minnesota, 3-2, to capture their second-straight NACWAA Volleyball Championship - the first team to ever accomplish the feat. After sweeping the Yellow Jackets on Friday (Sept. 27), USC had to rally from a 2-1 game deficit against the Golden Gophers on Saturday (Sept. 28). The Women of Troy were out-dug, out-hit and out-blocked by Minnesota and its outstanding passing game, but in the end USC out lasted the Gophers for the five-game victory.

The Women of Troy had not been pushed to five games since defeating California 3-2 on the road on Oct. 18, 2003. It was the only five-game match USC played last season.

Junior opposite hitter Staci Venski and senior outside hitter Keao Burdine earned all-tournament honors, while junior middle blocker Bibiana Candelas was named tournament MVP. Candelas had a .423 attack percentage for the tournament, and added 3.12 kills and 0.88 blocks per game. Venski provided a steady 2.25 kills per game, including a career-high 12 kills in the final. Burdine, who averaged 3.88 kills in the two matches, led with a match-high 21 kills against Minnesota.

Volleyball Live
Fox Sports West has announced that it will air two of USC's matches this season LIVE - Friday, Oct. 8, vs. Stanford and Thursday, Nov. 4, at California. The network has been airing its volleyball matches on a tape delay basis for the past three seasons. The two matches will also be shown tape delayed on other Fox Sports Net affiliates. The Trojans' Nov. 26 match at Washington will only be shown tape delayed.

USC 'School Pass'
Audio broadcasts of all USC home volleyball matches are now available on the internet with the USC 'School Pass.' Subscriptions are $4.95 per month and can be ordered online at either or The package includes all radio broadcasts of Trojan football, men's and women's basketball, women's and men's volleyball and baseball contests.

If you don't have a School Pass, then you can follow all home Women of Troy matches with Live Stats now available on

Team News N' Notes
• The loss to then-ranked No. 16 Illinois on Sept. 11 put an end to the Trojans' NCAA-record 52-match win streak. USC had not lost a match in nearly two years. It marked only the second loss since the start of the 2002 season.
• USC finished in second place at the State Farm Illini Volleyball Classic, marking the first time since 2001 that the Women of Troy did not win a nonconference tournament.
• USC became the first-ever team to win a second-straight NACWAA Volleyball Championship with wins over Georgia Tech and Minnesota on Sept. 27 and 28.

Player News N' Notes
• Emily Adams and Keao Burdine were named to the State Farm Illini Volleyball Classic all-tournament team.
• Numerous career-highs were set at the Illini Classic, including Staci Venski's nine blocks, Kimi Freeburg's two kills and two aces, Bibiana Candelas' eight blocks (ties), Alicia Robinson's 19 digs and Keao Burdine's four aces (ties).
• For the first time in her USC career, Keao Burdine exhibited her powerful jump serve against Pepperdine on Sept. 5. She collected three aces for the match.
• Emily Adams was named MVP of the Marriott Beach Classic - Pepperdine's three-day tournament, in which the USC match was included. Junior Bibiana Candelas earned all-tournament honors.
• Bibiana Candelas earned her first MVP honor as a Trojan at the NACWAA Classic. Staci Venski collected her first all-tournament honor at the event and Keao Burdine was also honored to the team.
• Debora Seilhamer set a NACWAA Tournament record with a career-high 19 digs in a three-game match against Georgia Tech (Aug. 27).

Chasing History
After capturing back-to-back national titles in 2002 and 2003, this year's USC women's volleyball squad is looking to do what no other team has done - win a third straight. There have been seven repeat champions in the history of collegiate women's volleyball (USC 1976-77, USC 1980-81, Hawai'i 1982-83, Pacific 1985-86, UCLA 1990-91, Stanford 1996-97, USC 2002-03), but no one has claimed the three-peat.

The Advantage of Height
The 2004 squad boasts one of the tallest lineups of hitters and blockers across the country, but they fall a half inch shorter than the 2002 and 2003 USC team average. The Trojans' hitters and blockers average 6-foot-2-and-a-half. As a team USC stands just over 6-0.

Twin Towers Return
Two of the most dominating players in Division I volleyball are back for another season. At 6-foot-6 and 6-foot-5, senior middle blocker Emily Adams (Phoenix, Ariz.) and junior middle blocker Bibiana Candelas (Torreón, Mexico) return to the net for the Women of Troy. These two players, the tallest duo at the net in Division I, each earned AVCA All-American first team accolades in 2003. Adams and Candelas led the nation with .431 and .434 attack percentages, respectively, in addition to ranking among the nation's top five with 1.39 and 1.24 blocks apiece. Adams contributed 3.36 kills per game, while Candelas added an average of 3.05.

Burdine Deserves A Closer Look
Every coach across the country knows her name, but she has never been named to a All-America first team. She has been the driving force behind USC's last two championship efforts, but she only has one all-region first team selection to her name. This is senior outside hitter Keao Burdine (Pico Rivera, Calif.) - the only player to ever be named the sole NCAA Championship MVP twice. She has been one player on a team of all-stars, but you'll never hear her complain. After all, she has two NCAA championships to her name.

A Tale Of Five Setters
Thanks to the addition of two transfer players, USC will not lack depth at the setting position this season. In addition to sophomore Kimi Freeburg, redshirt freshman Alex Dunphy and walk-on freshman setter/opposite hitter Kathleen Gilmour (who may likely redshirt this season), the Women of Troy welcome 5-foot-10 Nena Siljegovic of Simi Valley, Calif., and 5-foot-7 Alli Dillon of Long Beach, Calif. Siljegovic is a junior transfer from Moorpark (Calif.) Community College, while Dillon enters her sophomore year after spending the 2003 season at San Jose State. What would be a problem for most teams is not for the Trojans, whose 6-2 offense allows the team to utilize the talent of at least two setters.

A Story Worth Reading About
Junior transfer Nena Siljegovic's background is unlike many collegiate student-athletes. Though she spent the last two years playing at Moorpark Community College (where she was named the AVCA's 2003 Two-Year College Player of the Year) and the previous two years at Royal High in Simi Valley, Calif., that's where the similarities end. Siljegovic is a native of the former Yugoslavia (Serbia). She and her family were forced to leave their country in 1998 due to the ever-present danger and collapse of the economy during the breakup of Yugoslavia. The family fled to Austria for one year before moving to the U.S.

Siljegovic's volleyball career took a strange turn as a result of the move. She never wanted to play the position of setter, but it was the only position her prep coach at Royal High understood in her self-admitted broken English. So he immediately cast her in the role.

Flashback to 2000
The freshmen of 2004 have drawn many comparisons to the freshmen of 2000 (April Ross, Katie Olsovsky, Toni Anderson, Nicole Davis), who completed their USC careers last season. Even though the Women of Troy may have lost one of the best classes in program history, the coaching staff did a pretty good job in finding comparable replacements. Considered by most as the No. 1 recruiting class in the country (USC's third in the last five years), this set of newcomers includes four Volleyball magazine Fab 50 selections, including 6-foot-2 middle blocker Katelyn Bishop (Terre Haute, Ind.), 6-foot-2 middle blocker/opposite hitter Diane Copenhagen (Mountain View, Calif.) and a pair of 6-foot-1 outside hitters Sarah Florian (Toledo, Ohio) and Jessica Gysin (Mountain View, Calif.).

2003 Recap
It was a perfect ending to a perfect season as the 2003 Women of Troy captured their second-consecutive title (sixth overall) with an undefeated 35-0 record. USC became the first team to ever repeat without defeat and, en route, set an NCAA record by winning 47 consecutive matches dating back to Nov. 2, 2002. Led by five seniors, the Women of Troy went 18-0 in Pac-10 play for their third conference title in the last four years. The Trojans were pushed past three games a mere six times during the season, and only once were they pushed to a fifth (at Cal on Oct. 18). USC's efforts were led by April Ross (Honda Award Winner, All-America, Pac-10 Player of the Year), Emily Adams (All-America, All-Pac-10), Bibiana Candelas (All-America, All-Pac-10) and Keao Burdine (All-America, All-Pac-10). Burdine was named NCAA Championship MVP for the second-straight year.

Opponent Notes

South Carolina -- The Gamecocks are off to a 5-2 start this season. Last week, the team fell to Duke, 3-0, but defeated Northern Illinois, 3-1, and Towson, 3-0, at the Duke Invitational. Under 12th-year head coach Kim Hudson, South Carolina returned all seven starters from last year's squad which posted a 12-18 overall record and 6-10 mark in the SEC (for fourth place in the East Division). Among the top returners, sophomore outside hitter Shonda Cole is currently leading the team with 4.21 kills per game, junior middle blocker Lauren Ford leads with 1.12 blocks per game, junior middle blocker/outside hitter Nicole Miller leads with 2.92 digs per game and sophomore setter Katelyn Panzau is averaging a team-best 8.75 assists per game.

USC-South Carolina Series Record -- Last season marked the first-ever meeting between the two USC's. The Gamecocks came to Los Angeles for the USC-Holiday Inn Volleyball Tournament and fell to the Trojans, 3-0.

USC-South Carolina Common Connections
• South Carolina athletic director Mike McGee served as athletic director at USC for nine years (1984-93) prior to the arrival of Mike Garrett.
• The Gamecocks have two players who hail from California - junior Nicole Miller (Stockton) and freshman Caitlin Withers (San Marino).

Opponent Comparisons	Kpg	Pct.	Apg	SApg	Dpg	BpgSouth Carolina		14.96	.195	13.08	1.96	15.96	2.38USC			16.00	.318	14.88	1.04	14.79	2.75

Notre Dame -- Notre Dame enters this week with a 4-3 record, but is coming off of three-straight wins at the Cal Poly Invitational. The Fighting Irish defeated Fresno State, 3-2, Sacramento State, 3-0, and Cal Poly, 3-0. Under 14th-year head coach Debbie Brown, the team returned nine letterwinners, including four starters from last year's team. In 2003, UND finished with a 23-7 overall record, an 11-1 mark in the Big East for first place, earned a No. 24 final ranking and advanced to the first round of the NCAAs. This season, the Irish are led by a trio of juniors -- Lauren Kelbley (3.79 kpg), Lauren Brewster (1.57 bpg) and Meg Henican (4.54 dpg). Freshman setter Ashley Tarutis guides the team with 8.89 assists per game.

USC-Notre Dame Series Record -- Despite USC's long-standing history with the Fighting Irish on the gridiron, the two teams have only met a total of five times in volleyball. The Women of Troy own a 4-1 record against Notre Dame. The last match-up took place on Nov. 24, 2000, in Los Angeles. The Trojans defeated the Irish 3-2.

USC-Notre Dame Common Connections
• Junior setter Kelly Burrell is a former prep teammate of USC senior Emily Adams at Xavier Prep in Phoenix, Ariz.
• Senior DS/L Kelly Corbett prepped at St. Francis High in Mountain View, Calif., along with USC freshmen Diane Copenhagen and Jessica Gysin, and sophomore Anne Montgomery.
• Freshman setter Ashley Tarutis and USC sophomore setter Alli Dillon both grew up in Long Beach, Calif. Tarutis prepped at Los Alamitos (Calif.) High, while Dillon attended Long Beach's Wilson High.
• Notre Dame head coach Debbie (Landreth) Brown was a two-time All-American outside hitter at USC (1976-77) and led the Trojans to two AIAW national championships.

Opponent Comparisons	Kpg	Pct.	Apg	SApg	Dpg	BpgNotre Dame		14.54	.208	13.25	1.54	17.36	3.16USC			16.00	.318	14.88	1.04	14.79	2.75

Michigan State -- Michigan State enters this week with a 5-1 record. Its five-match win streak to start the season came to an end with a 3-0 loss to then-No. 6 Washington at the Wichita State Classic on Saturday. MSU beat Arkansas, 3-1, and Wichita State, 3-2, in the first two rounds of the tournament. Under 12th-year head coach Chuck Erbe, the Spartans returned four starters and seven total letterwinners from last year's squad, which finished the year at 19-12 overall, 11-9 in the Big Ten for sixth place and advanced to the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The team is led by senior outside hitter Kim Schram (4.79 kpg), redshirt freshman middle blocker Andrea Hansen (0.89 bpg), redshirt junior libero Marley Bellwood (4.10 dpg) and freshman setter Maggie Griffin (12.81 apg).

USC-Michigan State Series Record -- Sunday's match will mark the sixth all-time meeting between USC and Michigan State. The Trojans have won all five previous match-ups and last defeated the Spartans 3-0 on Dec. 12, 2002, in the NCAA Regional Semifinal in Santa Barbara, Calif., en route to the Women of Troy's first of two consecutive NCAA titles.

USC-Michigan State Common Connections
• MSU head coach Chuck Erbe spent 12 seasons (1976-77, 1979-88) at USC where he compiled a 310-121-3 record and put USC women's volleyball on the map. Under his leadership, the Women of Troy captured AIAW National Championships in 1976, 1977 and 1980 and the first-ever NCAA Championship in 1981. USC advanced to AIAW or NCAA Tournament play in 11 of his 12 years as head coach.

Opponent Comparisons	Kpg	Pct.	Apg	SApg	Dpg	BpgMichigan State		16.05	.254	14.48	1.76	15.05	2.52USC			16.00	.318	14.88	1.04	14.79	2.75
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