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Beach Volleyball Unveils Challenging 2018 Schedule
Beach Volleyball  . 

Beach Volleyball Unveils Challenging 2018 Schedule

Jan. 22, 2018

COLUMBIA, S.C. – The South Carolina beach volleyball team announced its 2018 schedule on Monday. The Gamecocks enter year five of the program and aim to follow up on a historic 2017 season that saw them win 23 matches, culminating in their first-ever berth to the NCAA tournament.

Highlighting the spring schedule are matches against five of the seven other teams who made the national tournament field, and a total of 17 matches against teams that ended the season in the American Volleyball Coaches Association’s Top 15 poll. Added to that are 13 matches against Coastal Collegiate Sports Association rivals as the Gamecocks enter year three with the conference.

“There’s no question that this is a challenging schedule, but we know that we need to compete against the best teams in the country to reach our ultimate goal of making it back to the NCAA tournament,” said head coach Moritz Moritz. “We’re going to do what we’ve done since day one ââ’¬” take this season point-by-point and match-by-match and trust one another to get back to where we want to be.”

The team begins the season with a pair of tournaments in the Sunshine State, starting out with the Stetson Spring Fling in Deland, Fla., on the last weekend of February. South Carolina will play conference rivals Georgia State and Florida State on Friday, Feb. 23, then plays host Stetson and Florida Atlantic on Saturday. The following weekend, the Gamecocks go to St. Augustine for the North Florida Beach Invitational. Three more CCSA matches are on tap, with rematches against Georgia State and FAU and a showdown with LSU to close the weekend.

The home season begins with a doubleheader on March 10. Jacksonville and North Florida come to Wheeler Beach for a one-day event; the Gamecocks play the Dolphins at 10 a.m. and the Ospreys at 2 p.m.

South Carolina’s first full weekend tournament will be March 17-18, when it hosts the Gamecock Grand Slam. The team has another matchup with Georgia State and LSU, and also hosts a Pepperdine team that finished No. 2 in the country last season. South Carolina’s match times for both days will be at 1 and 5 p.m.

The home stand continues through the weekend of March 24-25, when the team hosts the Gamecock Challenge and welcomes in another west coast power. Hawai’i, a team that finished No. 3 in the final AVCA poll, comes to Columbia for the first-ever meeting between the two teams. Carolina will also match up with Florida Gulf Coast, TCU and UAB; match times for the team will be at 2 and 6 p.m. each day.

A road trip to Miami will break the team out of a two-week home stretch, with the Gamecocks taking on five high-profile opponents at the Surf ‘n’ Turf tournament. Hosted by CCSA rival FIU, the tournament pits South Carolina against TCU, Grand Canyon and the host Panthers on March 30, and duals with FAU and UCLA on March 31. All five opponents at the tournament finished as AVCA Top 15 teams last spring, with UCLA leading the way at No. 5.

The regular season closes out back at Wheeler Beach following a bye week, as the Gamecocks hold the annual Palmetto Invitational on April 13-14. Along with matches against in-state rivals Coastal Carolina and College of Charleston, South Carolina will also face Tulane and Missouri State. Match times for the Gamecocks will be at 1 and 5 p.m. on both days.

The 10 CCSA members will again convene in Cartersville, Ga., for the conference tournament on the following weekend. The tournament begins with pool play on April 20-21, before the top four teams are bracketed for the semifinals on Sunday, April 22.

The Gamecocks return seven women who were key starters in the top five pairs. All seven won 20 or more matches as individuals, compared to just six players in total winning 20 or more matches in the program’s first three seasons. Highlighting the returners are seniors Macie Tendrich and Julia Mannisto, who won 27 and 22 matches in 2017, respectively. Also returning are sophomores Ali Denney, Carly Schnieder, Franky Harrison and Katie Smith, all 20-match winners, and junior Shannon Williams (24 wins in 2017).

Joining an already deep pool of talent will be nine newcomers ââ’¬” four true freshmen, three indoor graduate transfers and two crossover student-athletes from the indoor volleyball program.

For more information on the team leading up to the start of the season, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.