Gamecocks Travel to LSU for Weekend Tournament
The two-day event pits the team against LSU, TCU, Kingsville and Houston Baptist
BATON ROUGE, LA. – After almost an entire month removed from its last road trip, South Carolina beach volleyball heads to conference rival LSU for the Tiger’s beach invitational tournament on April 6 and 7. The Gamecocks will face Texas A&M-Kingsville and the No. 4 Tigers on Saturday, then #20 TCU and Houston Baptist on Sunday. After a strong month of March, the Gamecocks enter the weekend at 13-6 overall and are ranked 11th in the country.
GAMECOCKS APPROACH 100 PROGRAM WINS
Entering the weekend, South Carolina sits at 99 overall wins in program history. In the last three seasons alone, the team has three 20-win seasons and totaled 67 wins, with two trips to the NCAA tournament in 2017 and 2018. Every win has come under the direction of head coach Moritz Moritz.
SCOUTING TEXAS A&M-KINGSVILLE
The Javelinas are the defending national champions at the Division II level and have won eight of their last ten duals coming into the weekend, with five of their ten total wins coming against Division I teams. Tenley Housler and Whitney Walker have been the main pair at the top of the lineup, owning a 12-6 overall record together, Kylexus Block and Maddie Brabham have anchored the number two position with an 12-6 record, and Macy Berg and Haley Hutchinson lead the team with a 14-4 record in the third flight.
SCOUTING #4 LSU
The Tigers remain in the top five nationally for their third dual of the year with South Carolina. LSU is 17-5 overall, and have won nine of its last ten coming into the weekend. The traditional SEC rivals have split the first two meetings, both coming with 3-2 decisions, and five of the ten individual matches in those two meetings went three sets. The top and bottom positions in their lineup have anchored the Tigers’ success, with top pairing Claire Coppola and Kristen Nuss standing at 19-3 for the year and fives pairing Allison Coens and Hunter Domanski pulling down a 17-5 record. The rest of the lineup has been largely in flux, with four different pairings at number two, five pairs at number three and eight at number four. In its last tournament, the team went 4-1 at the Surf N Turf tournament in Miami, losing to No. 1 UCLA but taking down four other ranked opponents.
SCOUTING #20 TCU
TCU enters the tournament at 12-12 after a roller-coaster season to date. The Frogs have five wins over ranked opponents, but also suffered some losses to unranked teams that have held them back from climbing higher in the top-20 polls. Similar to LSU, TCU has had a host of lineup tweaks but have enjoyed a standout season so far from Avery Arellano and Hailey Brockett in the fifth position. The two are 17-4 together, leading the team, and only the combo of Taylor Bradley and Molly Scheel can also boast double-digit wins together. TCU has fielded five different pairs in the third position, seven different in the fours and eight different in the threes.
SCOUTING HOUSTON BAPTIST
Houston Baptist will compete in the Warhawk Beach Challenge on Friday and Saturday before coming to Baton Rouge for Sunday’s tournament action. Last weekend, the Huskies went 3-1 at their home tournament in Houston, beating New Mexico, Corpus Christi and ULM to run their overall record to 7-9.
GAMECOCKS IN THE NATIONAL RANKS
The team earned its first-ever ranking by the AVCA on March 6, 2017, and have not left the polls since. South Carolina stands at 11th in the April 1 poll, with wins over No. 2 Southern Cal and No. 4 LSU highlighting its 13 total victories. Eight Gamecock opponents are currently ranked in the top 20, including four of the top eight, and four other 2019 opponents are receiving votes.
FRESHMEN CLASS AIMS TO BOLSTER LINEUP DOWN THE STRETCH
In Sunday’s win over Arizona State, freshmen Abby Carroll and Jordan Smith made their first career starts, joining classmate Whitley Ballard as important pieces to the lineup as the team enters the final two weekends of the regular season. Ballard is currently out of the lineup with a nagging injury, but went 5-2 at the fifth pairing and showed great promise alongside teammate Caroline Skaff. The duo went 4-2 together, with wins over Southern Cal and FGCU standing out as highlights.
Carroll was an AAU national champion in 2016 and made the 2018 AVCA High School Beach Volleyball All-America second team before coming to Carolina. She debuted at the fourth pairing in the ASU dual and also competed in the exhibition flight against Coastal Carolina on March 27.
Smith was set back by a preseason injury but was finally cleared for game action in time to face the Sun Devils on March 31. Though she would fall in her collegiate debut, she remains a key player to watch as the season hits the home stretch.
WILLIAMS TAKING THE HARD ROAD THROUGH THE RECORD BOOK
Senior Shannon Williams stands as the team’s active wins leader, but her 72-48 career record is even more impressive when you consider that 79 over her 120 career starts (66 percent) have come in the number one position in the lineup. As a freshman, the Ashburn, Va. native went 14-21 at the number one position in the lineup, and led the team again last season with a 14-12 record at the top. This season, Williams and partner Cadie Bates are 13-5 at the top position, with highlight wins over Southern Cal and Georgia State. Williams currently has a program-record 41 wins at number one, more than the second- and third-ranked Gamecocks combined, and is three wins away from being just the second member of the program to ever reach 75 overall wins.
THE RACE TO 50
Entering the 2018 season, only two Gamecocks in program history had reached 50 career dual wins. Now in 2019 alone, two have joined the club with another in hot pursuit. Juniors Carly Schnieder and Katie Smith reached their 50th wins earlier this season, with classmate Franky Harrison (43) on the brink of joining them. Only the program’s all-time wins leader, Macie Tendrich, was able to reach 50 wins before the end of junior year.
GRAD CHANCE U
South Carolina welcomed its first grad transfer in 2015, when Jade Hayes came to Columbia from UCF. In the years since, the Gamecocks have one of the best track records in the country when it comes to developing indoor players for the beach game.
This season, a trio of indoor standouts are taking on significant roles in the lineup. Cadie Bates (Duke) went 20-8 in her first season in Columbia and currently is 13-5 at the number one position in the lineup. Lydia Dimke (Creighton) was limited her to just seven matches in her first season with the program due to a foot injury, but returned this season and has paired with Katie Smith to go 15-3 at the number two position. Joining the roster this year is Lauryn Gillis, a standout from national power Wisconsin. She played in 87 career matches with the Badgers, totaling over 1,000 career kills and 500 digs and helping the team reach the Sweet 16 in 2017, the regional final in 2016 and the regional semifinal in 2015. She has worked her way into the lineup and has three wins so far in the number five position.
GAMECOCKS LOOKING FOR CONSISTENCY FROM THE FIVES
Long standing as a staple of the team’s early success in 2017 and most of 2018, the fifth position in the Gamecock starting lineup has been a work in progress so far in 2019. Seven different pairings have occupied the spot, thanks in large part to injuries to three expected contributors during the course of the season. One recent mainstay has been grad transfer Lauryn Gillis, who has held down the position for the last five duals, but the team has a handful of talented individuals who could all factor into this important position with just a few weekends left in the regular season: Caroline Skaff (6-5 at No. 5), Whitley Ballard (5-2), Avery Davis (3-4), Jordan Smith (0-1) and Abby Carroll (0-1 at No. 4)
- South Carolina holds a 99-61 all-time program record, dating back to 2014.
- The Gamecocks joined the CCSA for volleyball in 2016, and have an all-time conference record of 30-17.
- In home matches at Wheeler Beach, Carolina is 48-16 (.750).
- Moritz Moritz is entering his sixth season as head coach of the Gamecocks, spanning the entire young history of the program. He earned his 75th career win against FGCU on March 24, 2018.