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March 3, 2017

WEEKEND SCHEDULE

Saturday: vs. #11 FIU, 8:30 a.m. ET | vs. Spring Hill College, 12:30 p.m.
Sunday: vs. College of Charleston, 11:30 a.m. ET | at North Florida, 2:30 p.m.

ST. AUGUSTINE, FLA. – The South Carolina beach volleyball program begins its fourth season Saturday, opening the 2017 schedule at the University of North Florida Beach Invitational. The two-day tournament on St. Augustine Beach will feature doubleheaders on both days ââ’¬” FIU and Spring Hill College on Saturday and College of Charleston and North Florida Sunday.

SCOUTING FIU
The Panthers went 13-9 overall and 5-3 in the CCSA last season, carrying a top-10 national ranking throughout the spring and are ranked 11th in the AVCA preseason ranks. Though the roster was mixed and matched up and down the five starting pair positions, a number of athletes who made an impact as a starter will return for 2017. Senior Katie Hogan won four matches at the #1 position, while Anabela Sataric went 5-4 for the year at #2. Junior Natalia Giron will likely play a bigger role in the lineup after notching a team-high 17 wins overall and 15 at the #5 position. Her classmate, Estefanie Bethancourt, may also factor in to the top pairs after winning five matches at #3 and seven more at #4 in 2016.

SCOUTING SPRING HILL COLLEGE
The Badgers had a 9-13 record in 2016, and will carry 15 underclassmen on their roster this spring. The team’s top pair of Madison Seuzeneau and Julie Vujnovich returns after winning seven matches in the #1 spot last season. Also adding to the team’s depth is Anna Tietjens, who was part of Spring Hill’s winningest pair in 2016 (10 wins at #2), and Molly Griffin and Hannah Masoner – the main #3 pair from last year.

SCOUTING COLLEGE OF CHARLESTON
The College of Charleston will be conference rivals with South Carolina this season, as the Cougars joined the CCSA in the fall. The program is coming off a 2016 season which ended with a 9-14 overall record, and return its winningest pair in sophomores Allison Beckman and Devon Rachel (12 wins at #5). Also returning is the team’s main #3 pair from 2016, Krissy Mummey and McKala Rhondes (nine wins), but with both members of the top pair graduating, the Cougars will need to find a new grouping to lead the way for 2017.

SCOUTING NORTH FLORIDA
The host Ospreys are defending Atlantic Sun champions, and welcome in five newcomers for 2017. North Florida finished 2016 with a 24-9 overall record, highlighted by three wins against nationally ranked opponents, and are ranked 13th in the preseason DiG Magazine national rankings. Though the program lost three players from its first and second pair, it does return Katarina Raicevic and Courtney Miller – who went 26-7 at #3 in 2016 – as well as Chaney Howard, who won 27 matches as part of the #4 pair in her 2016 freshman campaign.

PRESEASON NOTABLES

  • The Gamecocks return seven players who were mainstays in the top five pairs last season. All seven returners won 10 or more dual matches, and six won at least 15 matches.
  • Among those returning are Macie Tendrich and Katie Zimmerman, who paired up for 26 wins between the number two and three pairs. The 26 wins are a new single-season record for a Gamecock pair.
  • 2017 will be the final go-around for the program’s first-ever freshman class. The group is made up of Erin Neuenfeldt, Helen Recaborde, Jade Vitt and Jordan Wilson-Talmadge.
  • Entering the fold this season are nine newcomers hailing from seven different states. Seven are freshmen, while two join the program as graduate transfers – Adrianna Culbert and Hannah Sorensen.
  • Three freshmen ended their high school careers with national honors. Carly Schnieder and Katie Smith earned a place on the AVCA High School Beach All-America Team, and Ali Denney made MaxPreps’ 2015 High School Small Schools All-American first team for her efforts during her senior indoor season. She finished with 7.5 kills and 1.3 aces per set for the The Pine School in Florida.
  • The Gamecocks are receiving votes in the AVCA top 15 preseason poll and are 17th in the DiG Magazine rankings.

WELCOME TO THE GREAT OUTDOORS!
After finding tremendous success converting Wichita State indoor volleyball standout Katie Zimmerman to the beach last season, the coaching staff will try that same formula this season with Adrianna Culbert. While playing indoors for Colorado State, Culbert earned 2015 Mountain West Player of the Year honors and was a three-time AVCA All-Pacific North Region Team member for the Rams.

YEAR TWO OF CONFERENCE ACTION HEATS UP
South Carolina’s 2017 slate will feature a number of brewing rivalries thanks to an expanded conference this season. The Coastal Collegiate Sports Association added two more programs this past fall, welcoming College of Charleston and UNC-Wilmington to push the conference up to 10 teams. The Gamecocks finished 5-5 in CCSA matches during the regular season, and made the semifinal round of the conference’s first-ever postseason tournament. Carolina will play 16 conference matches during the 2017 regular season, six coming at home.

CHALLENGING SCHEDULE AWAITS GAMECOCKS IN 2017
As the program heads into its fourth year, the competition level has been stepped up to another level. The Gamecocks have lined up seven regular season tournaments that will cover 28 duals. Of those 28 matches, six are against opponents who finished in the AVCA Coaches top-10 poll in 2016 and 13 against teams that were ranked in the DiG Magazine final top-20 poll. The highlight for the year will no doubt be the Gamecock Grand Slam on March 25-26, where Carolina hosts the defending national champions Southern Cal, national runner-up Florida State, and Stetson, who ended 2016 ranked 9th nationally by the AVCA.

STRONG SUMMER EARNS GAMECOCK DUO ALL-AMERICA HONORS
Freshmen Carly Schnieder and Katie Smith come to Carolina with accomplished prep careers on the beach. The duo won the AAU Jr. National Beach Volleyball Championship as well as the USA Volleyball Junior Beach Volleyball Tour Championship. For their efforts, Carly and Katie made the six-member AVCA High School Beach All-America Team. South Carolina Beach Volleyball now has three first-team All-Americans on the roster, as the two freshmen joined junior Julia Mannisto, who was on the four-member 2014 All-America team. South Carolina is the only school in the country to have three AVCA Beach All-Americans on their roster.

ALL-TIME RECORDS

  • South Carolina holds a 39-35 (.527) all-time record, dating back to 2014.
  • The Gamecocks joined the CCSA for volleyball in 2016, and have an all-time conference record of 5-5 (.500).
  • In home matches at Wheeler Beach, Carolina is 23-8 (.742).
  • Moritz Moritz is entering his fourth season as head coach of the Gamecocks, spanning the young history of the program.