The volleyball teams from South Carolina and Clemson each began their 2007 seasons over the weekend, the Gamecocks falling in the championship round of the Delaware/ASICS Invitational and the Tigers winning the Microtel Mississippi State Classic.
Led by tournament MVP Danielle Hepburn, who was also named ACC Volleyball Player of the Week, Clemson began 3-0 with wins over Arkansas-Little Rock, Murray State and the host Lady Bulldogs. Hepburn had 17 kills and a career-high 11 block assists in the final match, among 39 kills and 20 blocks over the weekend.
Setter Kelsey Murphy and middle hitter Meghan Steiner were also named to the all-tournament team.
USC began the weekend with wins over Binghamton and Boston College but fell to the host Lady Blue Hens in the final. Freshmen Dani Bedore and Megan Laughlin made the all-tournament team.
Rock Hill native Sarah Cline, a former Northwestern High School standout, had a career-high 18 digs against Delaware, part of a superlative weekend. The defensive specialist, beginning her sophomore year, passed her previous career-high by one and recorded 42 digs for the tournament.
• ALSO BEGINNING: Volleyball has already begun and most of the other Olympic sports at each school will begin this weekend, sandwiched around the football opener for each school.
Clemson's men's cross country team will travel to the Western Carolina Invitational on Friday, while the women's squad will go to Columbia for the Gamecock Invite.
The volleyball teams will again participate in tournaments, USC set to take on Virginia Commonwealth, Maryland and George Washington at the Third Degree Sportswear Invitational in Richmond, Va., and Clemson hosting Florida A&M, Furman and Purdue in the Big Orange Bash.
Clemson's women's soccer team will host Liberty at 5 p.m. Friday, while USC will travel to defending national champion North Carolina at noon Saturday.
No one probably needs reminding about the football season-openers. USC takes on Louisiana-Lafayette at 7 p.m. Saturday in Columbia, while Clemson hosts No. 19 Florida State at 8 p.m. Monday.
• THE RIVALRY: Two more seasons will also begin Friday -- those of the men's soccer teams from each school, when USC travels to Clemson.
It will be the first rivalry match of the year between the two schools and will have to whet fans' appetites for the all-sports season rivalry until Sept. 21, when the women's soccer squads meet. Clemson's soccer team warmed up with two exhibitions (going 0-1-1), while it will be the Gamecocks' first action of the year.
The yearly rivalry finished with a 7-7 tie last year and will be missing a match this season. The USC and Clemson volleyball teams are not scheduled to play each other this year.
Other scheduled matches are: Nov. 3 (men's and women's swimming/diving); Nov. 24 (football); Dec. 1 (men's basketball) and Dec. 22 (women's basketball).
• WELCOME TO THE SHOW: USC baseball continued its banner year in sending alums to the pros when former Gamecock Billy Buckner was summoned to the Kansas City Royals.
Buckner only pitched one year at USC but went 7-2 with a 3.32 ERA, helping send the Gamecocks to the 2004 College World Series. He, along with fellow starter Matt Campbell and closer Chad Blackwell, was drafted by Kansas City.
Buckner is one of four former Gamecocks in the major leagues, joining Baltimore shortstop Brian Roberts, Houston shortstop Adam Everett and Minnesota third baseman Brian Buscher. Former USC players Jon Coutlangus (Cincinnati), Marcus McBeth (Cincinnati), Kevin Melillo (Oakland), Lancaster native Lee Gronkiewicz (Toronto) and Drew Meyer (Texas) have also played in the majors this season, although they are currently with each organization's Triple-A franchise.
• THE GAME IS ON: USC's football opener Saturday promises a special treat for Gamecock fans. The USC Athletic Department is promoting "The Game is On," billed as a message to Gamecock Nation.
Fans are encouraged to be in their seats by 6:45 p.m. Saturday to hear the message. The promotion is listed in its entirety below.
"The time has come and the challenge has arrived. A call to Gamecock Nation to get into your seats early on September 1 and be the first to hear a special message. No more put-downs, no more excuses. Behold the traditions, feel the excitement and envision the future of Gamecocks united. The Game Is On!
"Tired of hearing, 'Just wait 'til next year?' Tired of being under-rated, under-recognized and unappreciated? On September 1 at 6:45 p.m., Gamecock Nation will unite to declare The Game Is On!"