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March 10, 2017

WEEKEND WEATHER

WEEKEND SCHEDULE

Saturday: vs. Mercer, 1 p.m. | vs. #11 Grand Canyon, 5 p.m.
Sunday: vs. UAB, 1 p.m. | vs. Jacksonville, 5 p.m.

COLUMBIA, S.C. – The South Carolina beach volleyball program begins the 2017 home schedule on Saturday with the Gamecock Challenge. The duals tournament features matches with Mercer and No. 11 Grand Canyon on Saturday, and UAB and Jacksonville on Sunday. The Gamecocks will play at 1 and 5 p.m. on each day, with the duals scheduled to air on the SEC Network + online stream.

BACK AT WHEELER BEACH
The team begins its 2017 home schedule on March 11 with the Gamecock Challenge, the first of three home tournaments at Wheeler Beach this year. South Carolina has been historically strong at home, compiling a record of 23-8 over the program’s first three years. Last year was a high point, with the Gamecocks going 14-3 at home.

SCOUTING MERCER
The Bears started out the season at the UAB Blazer Beach Duals with three wins, and had a mid-week day of duals on Tuesday against Jacksonville State and Georgia State. After splitting those matches, Mercer carries a 4-1 record into the weekend. Last year, the Bears went 10-13, 2-6 in the Atlantic Sun Conference. Leading the team are projected number one pair Tori Penrod and Emily Krogman, who made the preseason all-conference team after earning postseason honors from the conference last year. Not to be ignored are the Bears’ second pair of Emma and Sophie Peel. The sisters are 5-0 this season, highlighted by a win over Georgia State on Tuesday night.

SCOUTING GRAND CANYON
The `Lopes moved up to No. 11 in the latest AVCA poll after picking up four wins in the opening weekend. Friday, the team gathered wins over New Mexico and Colorado Mesa, and Saturday it beat TCU and Loyola Marymount before losing the weekend finale to No. 5 Hawai’i. Grand Canyon also had a mid-week match, sweeping Texas A&M Kingsville on Wednesday night to move to 5-1 this season. The team is led by ones pair Molly Turner and Tjasa Kotnik, who went undefeated for the tournament – including a big win over Hawai’i’s top pair. Turner made the A1 USA Beach Volleyball National Team as a sophomore in 2016, and Kotnik is a 6-foot, 3-inch transfer from Eckerd College.

SCOUTING UAB
UAB began its season at home with the Blazer Beach Duals last Friday, Saturday and Sunday, finishing with a 4-1 overall record. The team beat Jacksonville State, New Orleans, Louisiana-Monroe and Austin Peay but dropped a 5-0 decision to No. 15 Tulane. The Blazer’s number one pair entering the weekend are juniors Avei Logoleo and Erika Zembyla, who went 2-3 at the Blazer Duals. UAB’s fours pair of Gabbi Moreno and Rachel Evans were the team’s most successful in week one, finishing 4-1 overall with a three-set loss to Tulane as the only blemish.

SCOUTING JACKSONVILLE
Jacksonville is already battle-tested in the early season, with matches against current No. 8 Arizona, No. 5 Hawai’i and No. 12 Arizona State making up its opening weekend. Though the Dolphins lost all three duals, they bring some valuable experience into the Gamecock Challenge. The Dolphins also held a mid-week doubleheader at home against Florida Atlantic at home Thursday, and were swept in both duals. The team’s number one pair so far this season are juniors Mackenzie Swan and Cristina Finan.

UNF BEACH INVITE NOTABLES

  • Katie Smith and Katie Zimmerman shined in the number one pair, sweeping all four of their matches. For their efforts, the pair was named the CCSA’s Pair of the Week on March 7, the program’s first weekly honor from the conference.
  • The last team to start the season 4-0 was 2015’s group. A win against Mercer Friday at home would make the best start to a season in program history.
  • After dropping the first three meetings ever with FIU, South Carolina has now won two straight.
  • Five newcomers dotted the starting lineup for South Carolina, highlighted by Ali Denney and Adrianna Culbert winning both matches at the two pair in their Garnet and Black debuts.
  • It wasn’t just the starting five pairs that dominated in the opening weekend; the exhibition pairing of Caroline Skaff and Hannah Edelman finished the tournament 4-0 and outscored opponents 168-99.

SEASON 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.

GAMECOCKS CRACK THE NATIONAL RANKS
The South Carolina beach volleyball program made history Monday afternoon, making it in to the American Volleyball Coaches Association’s first weekly national poll of the season. The Gamecocks enter at No. 15, earning the program its first ranking ever by the sport’s governing body. The team received votes in the AVCA’s preseason coaches poll, but moved up after an undefeated weekend at the UNF Beach Invitational. Over the two days, South Carolina racked up wins over No. 11 FIU, Spring Hill, College of Charleston and North Florida. The 3-2 comeback win over FIU was Carolina’s second win over an AVCA-ranked opponent. In other weekly rankings, the team also moved up in the DiG Magazine’s first poll, going from 17 to 15.

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 30 duals. Of those 30 matches, 10 are against opponents currently in the AVCA Coaches top-15, and 14 against teams in the current DiG Magazine 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, Georgia State (currently 7th in the AVCA poll) and Stetson (9th in the AVCA poll).

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 43-35 all-time record, dating back to 2014.
  • The Gamecocks joined the CCSA for volleyball in 2016, and have an all-time conference record of 7-5 (.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.