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March 17, 2017

WEEKEND SCHEDULE

Saturday: vs. Tulane, 2 p.m. | vs. #8 LSU, 6 p.m.
Sunday: vs. Florida Gulf Coast, 12 p.m. | vs. UAB, 3 p.m.

BATON ROUGE, LA. – The No. 10 South Carolina beach volleyball team faces perhaps its most challenging weekend so far this season, as it travels down to Baton Rouge for the LSU Tiger Beach Invitational. The two-day event will feature the host, nationally ranked LSU, as well as Tulane, Florida Gulf Coast and UAB. The Gamecocks enter the tournament with an 8-0 record, the best start to a season in program history.

SCOUTING TULANE
Conference rival Tulane enters the tournament with an 8-1 overall record, including three straight sweeps to close out last weekend’s Badger Beach Classic. The Wave have flirted with the AVCA Top 15 rankings early this season, and is currently receiving votes in the coaches poll. Last season, Tulane went 20-15 overall and do return the top two players from last season in Tea Juric (26 wins at the number one pairing) and Madeline Mertz (20 wins at the number two pairing). South Carolina leads the all-time series 3-1, but Tulane did win the most recent matchup.

SCOUTING #8 LSU
The Tigers own a commanding 5-0 lead in the all-time series with South Carolina, including a pair of 5-0 sweeps last season. Though it enters the weekend with a 2-5 record, LSU has faced five top-10 teams so far this season. Senior Katie Lindelow is a top returner, she picked up 16 wins last season as the number one pair for the Tigers. The program has a number of young returners looking to make the jump, including Ashley Allmer (16 wins as a freshman) and Lilly Kessler (leads all returners with 25 wins in 2016).

SCOUTING FLORIDA GULF COAST
The Eagles are 3-0 after sweeping a doubleheader with Eckerd College on Wednesday. FGCU is in its sixth season as a beach program, competing out of the ASUN Conference. The Eagles defeated South Carolina 4-1 on April 9 of last season, the only prior meeting between the two schools.

SCOUTING UAB
UAB is 4-4 overall after an 0-3 weekend at the Gamecock Challenge. The Blazers were also scheduled to play Carolina, but the Sunday dual was cancelled on account of poor weather. The Blazer’s number one pair entering the weekend are juniors Avei Logoleo and Erika Zembyla, who went 2-3 at the season-opening Blazer Duals. UAB’s fours pair of Gabbi Moreno and Rachel Evans are the team’s most successful pairing, entering the weekend 6-2 overall with a win over No. 11 Grand Canyon at last weekend’s tournament.

GAMECOCK CHALLENGE/COASTAL CAROLINA NOTABLES

  • In the win over Mercer, senior Jade Vitt secured her 50th career dual win. Junior Macie Tendrich recorded her 50th career win later on Saturday against Grand Canyon, making her the first junior in program history to reach the milestone. Tendrich and Vitt join Sarah Blomgren as the only Gamecocks to reach 50 career dual wins.
  • South Carolina now has won three straight duals against Mercer.
  • Julia Mannisto and Carly Schnieder had South Carolina’s most dominant performance of the season to sweep their match with Jacksonville at the threes on Sunday. Thanks to a 21-6, 21-9 win, the pair held Jacksonville to the lowest combined point total of any opposing pair faced so far this season.
  • After defeating Coastal Carolina on Tueday, South Carolina is now 4-0 against the Atlantic Sun Conference so far this season.
  • Tendrich and Williams racked up their seventh-straight win out of the fourth flight against Coastal. The pair’s only loss in 2017 came to then-No. 11 FIU in the season opener.

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.

GAMECOCKS IN THE NATIONAL RANKS
The Gamecocks were the biggest movers in the AVCA Top 15 Coaches Poll on Monday, moving up to a tie for 10th place after sitting 15th after the previous weekend. In the DiG Magazine Top 20 poll, the team made an even larger jump, going from 15 all the way up to 8th.

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. So far this season, Culbert is 7-1 overall with her partner Ali Denney; the pair have split time at the number one and number two positions.

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 8th in the AVCA poll) and Stetson (12th in the latest 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 47-35 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.
  • In home matches at Wheeler Beach, Carolina is 27-8.
  • Moritz Moritz is entering his fourth season as head coach of the Gamecocks, spanning the young history of the program.