Cougars Travel To Florida For NCAA Tournament

GAINESVILLE, Fla. - College of Charleston will travel to Gainesville, Fla. this weekend for a first round match against No. 23 Miami (Fla.) in the 2012 NCAA Volleyball Tournament. The Cougars (26-7) will play the Hurricanes (25-5) on Friday, Nov. 30 at 5 p.m. in the O’Connell Center on UF’s campus.

The winner of that match will take on the winner of No. 15 Florida/Tulsa in the single-elimination sub-regional on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

The Cougars enter the NCAA Tournament after securing the Southern Conference automatic bid with a five-set victory over Furman in the SoCon title match. The win marked the seventh SoCon tournament title for CofC since 2001, and the 12th-straight regular season or tournament championship for the Cougars, the second-longest streak in the nation behind Hawaii.

The first round tournament location is a familiar venue for CofC and head coach Jason Kepner. College of Charleston trekked to the campus of Florida to play the Gators both in 2009 and 2007. CofC also played at Florida in 2006, but faced off against Arizona State instead of the host Gators.

College of Charleston is the only school in SoCon history to ever win an NCAA Tournament match. The Cougars accomplished the feat back in 2005 when CofC knocked off North Carolina, 3-1, in the first round in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Despite CofC’s success in the last decade, the Cougars have yet to knock off a Top 25 team, going 0-4 against teams in the AVCA Top 25.

The University of Florida will provide a free live video feed of the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament in Gainesville. Fans can access the feed at You can also follow all CofC Volleyball matches on Twitter at @cofcvolleyball.

College of Charleston has not played Miami in the Division I era (since 1991). The Cougars are 0-2 against Florida with both meetings coming in the NCAA Tournament in 2009 and 2007. CofC defeated Tulsa 3-0 in the schools’ only meeting back in 2001.

No. 23 Miami enters the NCAA Tournament as the ACC Runner-Up after losing to Florida State, 3-1, in the ACC Tournament title match. The Hurricanes are 5-0 against common opponents of the Cougars this season, defeating Wofford, Samford, Presbyterian and N.C. State (twice).

The Hurricanes’ blocking will be a tremendous obstacle as Miami ranks 11th in the nation in blocks/set (2.91), with Emani Sims and her 1.38 blocks ranking 26th overall.

Miami features a balanced offensive attack with five different players averaging more than two kills per set. Taylor Hollins is the team leader with 348 kills and 332 digs.

The Canes, who hold a 3-4 all-time record in the NCAA Tournament, also traveled to Gainesville in 2009. Last season, the team advanced to the second round after defeating Northern Illinois in the Ames bracket before falling to host Iowa State. The best postseason run came in 2002 when Lantagne Welch led the Hurricanes to the Sweet 16.

This year, Miami (25-5, 17-3 ACC) recorded its most conference wins since joining the ACC in 2004 to finish in second place. Boasting six All-ACC selections, the Canes led the conference in opponent hitting percentage (.167), assists (13.32/set), kills (14.35/set) and blocks (2.91/set).

College of Charleston will be making its seventh trip to the NCAA Tournament in 2012, with all appearances coming since 2002. CofC sports a 1-6 record all-time with the only victory coming against North Carolina in 2005.

Head coach Jason Kepner is 0-2 in two trips with the Cougars, losing to Florida in the first round in 2009 and 2007.

2012 – vs. No. 23 Miami (Gainesville Sub-Regional)
2009 – at No. 14 Florida, L 3-0 (Gainesville Sub-Regional)
2007 – at Florida, L 3-0 (Gainesville Sub-Regional)
2006 – vs. Arizona State, L 3-1 (Gainesville Sub-Regional)
2005 – at North Carolina, W 3-1 (Chapel Hill Sub-Regional)
– vs. No. 21 Purdue, L 3-0
2004 – at Southern California, L 3-0 (Los Angeles Sub-Regional)
2002 – at Notre Dame, L 3-1 (South Bend Sub-Regional)

College of Charleston jumped into the Top 50 of the RPI after the squad’s SoCon championship. The Cougars ranked 48th in the latest edition of the RPI, tops in the Southern Conference.

The highest finish under Coach Kepner came in 2010 when CofC was 65th. The program-best finish was an RPI of 26 back in 2005, the year CofC won a NCAA first-round match at North Carolina.

Past CofC RPI Finishes (Rank In SoCon)
2011 – 66 (3)
2010 – 65 (1)
2009 – 82 (2)
2008 – 72 (2)
2007 – 87 (1)

Since 2001, College of Charleston is just one of two teams (Hawaii) to win either the regular season or tournament championship in every single season.

During that stretch, College of Charleston has posted a record of 323-82 for a winning percentage of .798. According to NCAA Statistics, that mark puts the Cougars eighth in the nation in wins, and eighth in the nation in winning percentage over the last 12 years.

College of Charleston kill leader Darcy Dorton ranks 38th in the country in kills per set with 4.22, the second-best average in the Southern Conference. Senior Emily Shelton is currently fourth in the SoCon with 5.22 digs per set, ranking 37th nationally. In conference-only statistics, Kerstin Koehler is second with an attack percentage of .336.

As a team, the Cougars rank 30th in kills (14.23) and 32nd in assists (13.19) in the country.

College of Charleston won the 2012 SoCon Tournament after defeating defending champion Samford in the semifinals and division rival Furman in a five-set title match.

Sophomore Sloane White was named Tournament MVP after she finished the three matches with 51 kills and a .453 attacking percentage. Senior Emily Shelton tallied 71 digs in three matches to earn All-Tournament honors, and junior Taeler Davis also made the All-Tournament team after averaging 13.46 assists per set. Penn State transfer Darcy Dorton led the team with 52 kills and 32 digs.

Prior to the season-ending tournament, three Cougars were selected to the All-SoCon teams. Conference kill leader Darcy Dorton was named All-SoCon First Team, while Sloane White was tabbed for the All-SoCon Second Team and Melissa Morello made the All-SoCon Freshman team.

The Cougars have now had at least one player on the All-SoCon First Team in every season dating back to 1999. Since that year, the Cougars have placed 28 players on the First Team, more than any other SoCon program in the same time frame.

Senior Emily Shelton became just the 2nd player in CofC history to reach 2,000 digs for her career with 16 digs at Wofford on Nov. 2. Her 2,128 career digs is currently 2nd among active back row players in the Southern Conference, trailing only Chattanooga’s Paula Passmore who has 2,308 career digs.

Shelton has averaged 4.21 digs per set over her career which also ranks second in school history.

Penn State transfer Darcy Dorton has not only become a team leader, but she’s also making her mark on the CofC record books. She has only failed to get to 10 kills while playing three sets twice, and has reached 20 kills on six occasions. She has also posted 16 double-doubles as she has averaged 2.81 digs per set.

Dorton finished the season second in the Southern Conference with an average of 4.22 kills per set and 498 total kills.

If Dorton reaches 500 kills this season, she will be the CofC first player to do so since Alyson VanCleave in 2000, and the first player in school history since the rally scoring era began in 2001.

Dorton is currently fourth in the all-time CofC records for average kills per set in a season (4.22) despite playing in the 25-point era. She has averaged 4.61 points per set which currently ranks second in CofC history.

Reigning SoCon Freshman of the Year Sloane White did not experience any sort of sophomore slump in her second year in the program. White enters the NCAA Tournament with a team-best attack percentage of .321, tallying 336 kills with just 88 errors.

White earned SoCon Tournament MVP honors after she finished the three matches with 51 kills and a .453 attacking percentage. White matched her season kill mark of 18 on four separate occasions, including in the SoCon quarterfinals against Chattanooga when she had a career-best attack percentage of .552 in one match.

A high school club teammate of Dorton’s at Munciana, White was named Preseason All-SoCon and earned Second Team All-SoCon at the conclusion of the regular season.

College of Charleston setter Taeler Davis did not become the full-time starter until fellow junior and fellow setter Kallie McKown went down with a season-ending injury at Kansas.

Davis finished the season as the team’s only setter and averaged 10.96 assists per set, including 13.46 assists per set in the SoCon Tournament where she made the All-Tournament squad.

Davis was also a SoCon Offensive Player of the Week honoree this season. She tallied 10 double-doubles, the second-most on the team behind Dorton.

Freshman Melissa Morello got her first start of the season nearly three weeks in against BIG EAST foe, Georgetown. Morello made sure she retained it after tallied a double-double with 11 kills and 12 digs to help defeat the Hoyas.

Using an impressive arsenal of attacks that can place the ball anywhere on the court, Morello played to a SoCon All-Freshman season with 2.43 kills per set and 2.26 digs per set.

Junior Emily Neideffer entered the 2012 season with a career line of 36 kills, 7 blocks and a hitting percentage of .052. She surprised nearly everyone with a breakout year that culminated with a career-high performance in the SoCon semifinals with 15 kills and a .591 attack percentage against Samford.

Neideffer finished the season ranked fourth on the team in kills (228), third in attack percentage (.268) and second in blocks (87) as a converted middle blocker. She earned a spot on the All-Tournament team at the Jayhawk Invitational back in September.

Kerstin Koehler had a breakout year in her first opportunity as a starter for the Cougars. Koehler hit .307 overall, including .336 against SoCon competition which was the second-best average in the conference.

Koehler enters the postseason with a team-high 101 total blocks, averaging 0.87/set, with a career high of 10 blocks at Appalachian State on Oct. 19. She finished fifth on the squad in kills with 1.59/set.

Michael "Beach Mick" Hudson

About the Author:

Michael "Beach Mick" Hudson is the founder and Editor of Beach Carolina Magazine. Living along the coast of North Carolina, Mike has a passion for the beach and loves to bring news and events of the Carolinas to others around the world.

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