May 4, 2017
GULF SHORES, ALA. – The 2017 NCAA Beach Volleyball Championship gets underway Friday morning on the beach of Gulf Shores, Alabama, and the South Carolina Gamecocks will be looking to make a splash in their first-ever appearance in the national tournament. The team, coming in as the number-eight seed, will face the defending national champion Southern California (34-1) at 10 a.m. ET.
Turner Sports will present live coverage airing across truTV, TBS and streaming on NCAA.com. TruTV will televise live event coverage on Friday, May 5, and Saturday, May 6, beginning at 3 p.m. ET, with the championship round airing Sunday, May 7, at 2 p.m. on TBS.
In addition to televised coverage, NCAA.com will provide live streaming from every match beginning with the Gamecocks and Trojans. The link to watch each court can be found in the sidebar information, or by going to NCAA.com.
Anne Marie Anderson will provide play-by-play commentary for all matches alongside analyst Holly McPeak and reporters Camryn Irwin and Yogi Roth.
South Carolina will play two matches Friday. The winner of the Southern Cal dual will take on the winner of Hawai’i and Florida State at 4 p.m. ET live on TruTV, and the losing teams from the morning session will face off in an elimination round at 2 p.m. ET.
SCOUTING #1 Southern Cal
Southern Cal is the defending national champion, bringing home the first NCAA-sponsored title in the history of collegiate beach volleyball this past spring. The Women of Troy are currently 34-1 this season, with a loss to No. 2 UCLA on April 28 the only blemish. That 3-2 decision to the Bruins snapped a 62-match win streak. The team rallied back to beat the Bruins in the PAC-12 tournament final. Of the team’s 34 wins, 17 have come against teams ranked in the AVCA Top 15. Leading the way are top pair Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes, the seniors also had a prodigious win streak snapped after losing to St. Mary’s College on April 8, breaking what had been a 103-match streak. USC also has pairs with 20+ wins at the 2s (Sophie Bukovec/Allie Wheeler), 3s (Terese Cannon/Nicolette Martin) and 5s (Jenna Belton/Jo Kremer).
SCOUTING #5 Hawai’i
Hawai’i earned the top at-large bid to get into the NCAA tournament and will be the No. 5 seed at Gulf Shores. The Rainbow Wahine won the Big West this season and are 26-5 heading into nationals. This will be the program’s fourth straight trip as a team to Gulf Shores, as it also competed for the AVCA national title during the 2014 and 2015 seasons. Heading into NCAAs, Hawai’i is 11-1 over the last 12 matches, with the only loss coming to No. 3 Pepperdine, 3-2. The team’s number one pair is freshman Morgan Martin and senior Mikayla Tucker, who are 19-12 in the top flight so far this year. Hawai’i also has pairs with 20 wins at the number two (Ka’iwi Schucht/Nikki Taylor, 24-7) and three (Emily Maglio/Laurel Weaver, 28-3) positions.
SCOUTING #4 Florida State
The Seminoles are back-to-back CCSA champions and were the national runner-up to Southern Cal at last season’s national championship. This spring, Florida State is 27-7 and claimed the No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament. The Seminoles are battle-tested, with 20 wins coming against ranked opponents. This weekend could potentially be the fourth meeting between FSU and Carolina this year, the Seminoles are 3-0 so far but the Gamecocks came closer than they ever have in the most recent meeting, a 3-2 loss at the CCSA tournament. Vanessa Freire and Victoria Paranagua earned all-tournament honors from the CCSA after clinching the championship point against FIU in the conference final. That pair is 8-0 in the short time they’ve been together; both have over 25 wins as individuals this season.
Two Pairs Earn Bid to USAV Collegiate Championship
USA Volleyball announced selections for its Collegiate Beach Championship tournament Wednesday afternoon, and two pairs from the South Carolina program got the call as participants in the field of 24 women’s pairs. Making the exclusive field for the Gamecocks are Adrianna Culbert and Katie Smith, and Macie Tendrich and Katie Zimmerman. They will enter a tournament out in Hermosa Beach, Calif. that runs from May 11-13, with the winning pair earning a spot on the Collegiate National Team. Seeding will be determined the night before the first day of competition. The pairs are made up of US-born college student-athletes. South Carolina is one of six schools with more than one duo participating in the tournament. The women’s final will air live on NBCSN, May 13, 6 p.m. ET.
Gamecocks Collect Four Postseason Honors
The CCSA announced its end-of-the-year awards leading up to the conference tournament, and the Gamecocks picked up four honors. On Wednesday, junior Julia Mannisto and grad student Katie Zimmerman made the conference’s All-Academic team. Mannisto carries a 3.6 GPA as a finance major, while Zimmerman is finishing her master’s degree in exercise science this spring with a 3.944 GPA. The following day, the All-Freshman team was announced, with Ali Denney and Katie Smith making the five-woman group. Denney holds a 22-10 overall record this season, while Smith is 21-11, with 17 wins coming at the number one flight.
Gamecocks Conquer Challenging 2017 Schedule
Despite facing a schedule that featured 13 matches against opponents in the AVCA Coaches Top-15 poll, South Carolina set a new program record for wins in a season. After a 4-1 win over UNC Wilmington at the CCSA tournament, the Gamecocks broke 2016’s record of 20 wins, and enter the NCAA tournament with 23 victories. Five of those wins came against Top-15-ranked teams; South Carolina entered the season with just one Top-15 win in the first three years of the program.
CAROLINA’S BIGGEST ‘LITTLE’
Though she stands just 5-feet, 3-inches tall, junior Macie Tendrich is already the program’s winningest student-athlete, and has written her name all over the record book. The Boynton Beach, Fla. native’s career wins (71), and career winning percentage of .763 (71-22) are both tops in South Carolina history. She is also part of the winningest pair in school history, teaming with Katie Zimmerman in 2016 and part of 2017 to go 39-11. So far this season, Tendrich is 27-5 as an individual, splitting time in the 2s, 3s, and 4s position; her win over Florida State at the CCSA tournament gave her the program’s single-season win record as well, breaking a mark of 26 she held with Zimmerman from last season.
South Carolina’s seven-member freshman class has been one of the biggest keys to the team’s rise in the national polls. The Gamecocks have a freshman locked in to four of the top five pairs, and all four have gone over 20 wins as individuals this year. Katie Smith is 21-11 overall and 17-7 as part of the the top pairing, Ali Denney is 22-10 with 30 of her 32 matches spent at either the ones or twos position, Carly Schnieder is 22-9 between the three and four spots, and Franky Harrison is 22-9 with 21 wins in the fives. Individually, the freshman class has the team’s leader in aces (Denney, with 78), kills (Smith, with 435), and digs (also Smith, with 401).
GAMECOCKS IN THE NATIONAL RANKS
For the ninth straight week, the Gamecocks made the AVCA national rankings. After an off week following the CCSA tournament, the team moved up to No. 10 in the country. The Gamecocks have five wins over AVCA-ranked opponents this season, after beating just one ranked opponent in the program’s first three seasons combined.
SOUTH CAROLINA STAT LEADERS (As of 4/17)
- Kills: Katie Smith (435)
- Attacks: Katie Smith (935)
- Hitting Percentage (Min. 500 Attacks): Shannon Williams (.399)
- Assists: Katie Zimmerman (375)
- Digs: Katie Smith (401)
- Service Aces: Ali Denney (78)
- Blocks: Adrianna Culbert (63)
CRUNCHING THE NUMBERS
- For the season, the Gamecocks as a team are out-hitting opponents .354 to .261.
- In sets won, the team is hitting .412, but in sets lost the percentage drops out to .231. Errors per set go from 5.8 in sets won up to 8.5 in sets lost.
- Offensively, South Carolina’s five pairs combine to average 26 kills and 4.1 aces per match, opponents stand at 21.6 and 2.7, respectively.
- The single-match high for kills this season is 41, put together by Macie Tendrich and Katie Zimmerman against Georgia State on April 9.
- 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).
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 Northwest 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 an 23-9 record so far this season (16 wins in the 1s pair, seven in the 2s). Additionally, she leads the team in blocks (averaging one per set) and is hitting .399 with 4.8 kills and 6.2 assists per set.
Zimmerman has taken her skills to a new level in year two as a beach athlete. She has a 23-9 overall record, splitting time between the top three positions in the lineup. She leads the team in assists, and ranks second in blocks. Entering the NCAA tournament, she is sitting at 49 career wins, putting her in position to be just the fifth Gamecock in program history to reach 50 wins despite playing just two seasons.
GAMECOCKS IN THE NATIONAL RANKS
In the months leading up to their final seasons with the team, senior Erin Neuenfeldt and graduate student Katie Zimmerman opted to go overseas on service trips. Neuenfeldt spent last summer in Vietnam as part of the Coach for College program, a non-profit organization that offers student-athletes the chance to teach youths in rural parts of developing countries. Erin joined other volunteers in teaching academics courses, as well as life skills and various sports just south of Ho Chi Minh City in the Mekong Delta. Zimmerman used her winter break to travel to Nicaragua with One World Health, working with the Mobile Medical Unit program which sends volunteers out to local villages to help them with on-site, “pop-up” clinics.
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.
- South Carolina holds a 62-44 all-time program record, dating back to 2014.
- The Gamecocks joined the CCSA for beach volleyball in 2016, and have an all-time conference record of 16-10.
- In home matches at Wheeler Beach, Carolina is 31-12 (.721).
- 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.