Beach Volleyball Announces 2019 Schedule
The Gamecocks face three NCAA tournament teams from 2018
COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina beach volleyball announced its 2019 schedule on Thursday. The sixth season for the program features 11 duals against teams that were ranked in the final coaches poll of 2018, as well as two home tournaments and three home duals. The Gamecocks return six starters from their 2018 squad, which enjoyed a program-record 24 wins and a place in the eight-team NCAA tournament field.
The team begins the season with three road weekends in a row, jumping right into the fire with a four-match tournament at Florida State on Feb. 23-24. Duals with Cal Poly and Tampa start the weekend off on Saturday, and Sunday brings duals against Coastal Collegiate Sports Association rivals LSU and Florida State. Cal Poly finished 2018 with 25 wins and the No. 10 ranking nationally, but were left out of the eight-team NCAA tournament field. Tampa is in its second season as a program but did finish with 14 wins in its debut effort. The host Seminoles won 33 duals and finished as the national runner-up in 2018, and return a strong core of starters for this spring. LSU went 27-14 last year and ended South Carolina’s season with a win in the consolation round at the NCAA tournament.
For reigning CCSA Coach of the Year Moritz Moritz, the challenge right from the start will be an important way to test his team.
“Not only being on the road, but on the road against some of the best competition in the country puts a lot of pressure on our team but is also what we need to develop the type of season we need to reach Gulf Shores,” said Moritz, who has led the program since its inception. “This tournament will be a giant marker for where we are and what we need to improve on as we set ourselves up for the rest of the year. It’s a measure of all our players, from returners to newcomers.”
Week two won’t be any easier for the team, as it heads back to the Sunshine State for the FAU Beach Burrow Bash in Boca Raton on March 1-2. Along with a dual with the host FAU Owls, the Gamecocks will rematch with Florida State and LSU and take on another CCSA opponent in UAB.
A special opportunity awaits the team the following weekend. On March 9, the Gamecocks stay in-state when they travel to Conway for duals against UNCW and Coastal Carolina.
“We’ve never been to Coastal Carolina, and it’s a neat thing to see the other schools in our state and compete,” Moritz said. “We’re excited to see some Gamecock fans from a whole new region of South Carolina who may not otherwise be able to make it to our home matches to cheer us on, it’s an important way to grow the game in the state and we’re looking forward to facing two really well-coached teams there.”
The team has a difficult week-long stretch begin on March 12, with Georgia State’s Day of Duals event in Atlanta, Ga. On that Tuesday, the Gamecocks face Southern California and FGCU, starting with a 10 a.m. dual with the Women of Troy.
The team’s first true home weekend will be on March 16-17, when it hosts the Gamecock Grand Slam. Saturday features a 1 p.m. dual with UAB and a 5 p.m. dual with Georgia State, and on Sunday the team takes on Stetson at 1 and Eastern Kentucky at 5. In the two weeks following that, South Carolina will host three single-team duals. On Tuesday, March 19, the team plays Morehead State at 6 p.m. at Wheeler Beach, capping a span of seven duals in seven days. On Wednesday, March 27, Coastal Carolina comes to Columbia for a rematch, and on that following Sunday, March 31, Arizona State will face the Gamecocks for a noon dual.
“Even though we aren’t hosting a traditional weekend tournament, we’re instead providing a different opportunity for our fans that I think is special,” Moritz said. “We love the atmosphere at Wheeler Beach, so to give people an opportunity to spend an evening with their families during the week is special. You can get out of work, get your family together and watch us compete under the lights; that’s something that means a lot to our team and I hope our fans really enjoy that opportunity.”
The final road weekend of the regular season brings Carolina to Baton Rouge for the Tiger Beach Invitational. On April 6, the Gamecocks face reigning Division II national champion Texas A&M-Kingsville and host LSU. Sunday features duals with new CCSA member TCU and Houston Baptist.
The regular season closes at home on April 12-13 with the Palmetto Invitational. On Friday, the Gamecocks face Tulane at 1 p.m. and Missouri State at 6. Saturday will have duals with UNCW at 1 p.m. and College of Charleston at 5.
Postseason play begins with the Gamecocks returning to Lake Point Sports Complex for the CCSA Conference’s tournament from April 19-21. With TCU and Southern Mississippi joining the league, the 12-team field will be the toughest yet. Four of 2018’s 10 members made the NCAA tournament, and seven were ranked in the postseason coaches top-20 poll.
“The great thing about our conference is, you can’t take a day off against anybody,” Moritz said. “Top to bottom, the CCSA is so strong, you have to make the most of every opportunity because we’ve seen the teams we face in our conference make major impact on a national scale. The level of competition and talent that we have on the East Coast is understated. There’s no question that beach volleyball on the West Coast is super strong, but I love the region and conference we’re in. It doesn’t matter who you’re facing, you know that there’s going to be a battle. I think that’s a testament to where beach volleyball has grown on a national level.”
All home events are free again in 2019. The team’s state-of-the-art Wheeler Beach facility can be located behind the South Carolina softball stadium and Cregger Track. Fans can park in the Dodie Anderson Academic Enrichment Center’s parking garage (1300 Heyward St.) or in the parking lot off South Marion Street. Those coming from the parking garage can take the athletics village promenade down to the courts; those in the South Marion lot can enter from below the promenade.
The American Volleyball Coaches Association’s preseason top-20 poll will be released prior to opening weekend. South Carolina has been ranked in the top-10 nationally for 11 straight weeks.