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March 31, 2017

WEEKEND SCHEDULE

Saturday: vs. Coastal Carolina, 9 a.m. | vs. Mercer, 4 p.m.
Sunday: vs. College of Charleston, 9 a.m. | at UNC-Wilmington, 12 p.m.

WILMINGTON, N.C. – The No. 11 South Carolina beach volleyball team (11-5, 4-3 CCSA) heads north this weekend for the UNC Wilmington Beach Blast Tournament. The event will put the Gamecocks up against four opponents, and the team will also have participants in a separate pairs tournament. The duals begin Saturday morning.

SCOUTING COASTAL CAROLINA
The Chanticleers are 0-5 after losing two Wednesday matches at Mercer. With only a few beach-only athletes on the roster, the team got a late start to the season and will compete in its first full weekend tournament of the season in Wilmington. Leading the team has been top pair Natasa Savovic and Tahleia Bishop, who already have wins over UNCW, Mercer and South Carolina’s number one so far in 2017.

SCOUTING MERCER
The Bears are 10-5 overall and 3-0 in the ASUN after sweeping two Wednesday matches against Coastal Carolina. The ten wins tie the program single-season record. Leading the team are number one pair Tori Penrod and Emily Krogman, who are 11-4 so far this season and made the preseason all-conference team after earning postseason honors from the conference last year. The duo were the only winning pair in the first meeting this season between the Gamecocks and Bears, defeaing Katie Smith and Katie Zimmerman in three sets. Sisters Emma and Sophie Peel are 9-2 as the twos pair, and Danielle Faust and Claire Waliczek already have 10 wins as the threes pair.

SCOUTING COLLEGE OF CHARLESTON
The program is coming off a 2016 season which ended with a 9-14 overall record, and returned 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 Rhodes (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. Rhodes and Mummey are still together in the three spot, and are 4-4 coming into the weekend. Beckman and Rachel moved into the fours position and are 5-3 so far this year, but the team is still looking for a standout top pair after Maddie Hills and Katja Ehlers have just a 1-7 record at the ones this season.

SCOUTING UNC
The host Seahawks are 8-4 this season but are looking to rebound after ending last weekend at the College of Charleston with consecutive losses to Tulane and the Cougars. UNCW has a fairly consistent lineup, with the 1-4 pairs unchanged so far this season. Tanna Aljoe/Nicole Lott have been in the top spot, and are 8-4 so far as a pair. The team’s top pair so far in 2017 has been Sydney Alvis/Sarah Kelly, who have nine wins as the threes pair. Wilmington is in its first season as a member of the CCSA, and second year overall as a beach volleyball program.

QUOTABLE: HEAD COACH Moritz Moritz
After the Gamecock Grand Slam
“We have some tweaks that we need to make in practice this week, but its great to have the opportunity to measure ourselves against such a high level of competition and see where we are and where we need to go next. We’re getting closer and closer with every step. It was a tough weekend, and even though we didn’t meet our expectations for the outcomes, we still battled. There are a lot of matches still ahead of us, and time to achieve great things as a program.”

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.
  • 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.

NIFTY 50
Two Gamecocks have crossed the 50-win plateaus for the their careers here in the early going of 2017. Senior Jade Vitt became the second player in school history to break 50 after her win against Mercer on March 11, and junior Macie Tendrich followed right after with win No. 50 later that night over No. 11 Grand Canyon. Tendrich became the program’s first junior to reach 50 wins, after Sarah Blomgren and Vitt made the milestone as seniors.

FRESHMEN PHENOMS
South Carolina’s seven-member freshman class has been one of the biggest keys to the team’s rise in the national polls. Through the first month of the season, the Gamecocks have a freshman in four of the top five pairs: Ali Denney and Katie Smith have each spent time at the number one flight, Carly Schnieder has won 12 matches in the third flight, and Franky Harrison has nine wins with the fives pair. On top of the starters, the team has also seen Hannah Edelman, Caroline Skaff and Sarah Nacouzi play in most of the matches out of the exhibition slot.

GAMECOCKS IN THE NATIONAL RANKS
For the fourth straight week, the Gamecocks made the AVCA national rankings. After debuting at No. 15 on March 6, the team went as high as ninth before settling back to 11 after four losses to nationally ranked opponents at the Gamecock Grand Slam. In the weekly DiG Magazine Top-20 poll, Carolina also moved back to the No. 11 position.

CRUNCHING THE NUMBERS

  • For the season, the Gamecocks as a team are out-hitting opponents .338 to .275.
  • In sets won, the team is hitting .407, but in sets lost the percentage drops out to .222. Errors per set to from 6.1 in sets won up to 8.6 in sets lost.
  • Offensively, South Carolina’s five pairs combine to average 25.4 kills and 3.9 aces per match, opponents stand at 21.9 and 3.0, respectively.
  • The single-match high for kills this season is 39, put together by Katie Smith and Katie Zimmerman against Florida Gulf Coast on March 19.
  • The Gamecocks have four matches this season where a pair recorded double-figure aces: Macie Tendrich and Shannon Williams against North Florida (10, 3/6), Carly Schnieder and Julia Mannisto twice (11 vs. Jackonville, 10 vs. Tulane) and Adrianna Culbert and Ali Denney against Florida State (10, 3/28).

SOUTH CAROLINA STAT LEADERS (As of 3/27)

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. Her experience indoors as a setter and pin hitter has prepared her well for the outdoor lifestyle, as Culbert has racked up a 11-5 record so far this season with partner Ali Denney (four wins in the 1s pair, seven in the 2s).

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 is currently 4-3 in conference matches so far this season, with wins over College of Charleston, FIU, Tulane and UAB.

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, eight are against opponents currently in the AVCA Coaches top-15, and 14 against teams in the current DiG Magazine top-20 poll. The team hosted a big tournament on March 25 and 26, bringing in No. 1 Southern Cal, No. 4 Florida State, No. 9 Georgia State and No. 13 Stetson. Another regular-season tournament to watch will be the Staybridge Suites Invitational in Tallahassee on April 7 and 8. Hosted by Florida State, the weekend features matches against the Seminoles, FIU, Florida Atlantic, TCU and Georgia State.

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 50-40 all-time record, dating back to 2014.
  • The Gamecocks joined the CCSA for volleyball in 2016, and have an all-time conference record of 9-8.
  • In home matches at Wheeler Beach, Carolina is 27-12.
  • Moritz Moritz is entering his fourth season as head coach of the Gamecocks, spanning the young history of the program. He earned his 50th career win against UAB on March 19, 2017.