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Beach Volleyball Heads to LSU for Five Weekend Duals
Beach Volleyball  . 

Beach Volleyball Heads to LSU for Five Weekend Duals

The Gamecocks face three opponents Saturday and two Sunday, including preseason No. 1 LSU

BATON ROUGE, LA. – Winners of five straight and eight of its last nine duals, South Carolina beach volleyball travels to the LSU for a two-day weekend tournament this Saturday and Sunday. The LSU Beach Invitational pits the Gamecocks against Southern Miss, New Orleans and the host Tigers on Saturday, with Sunday duals against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Houston Baptist to wrap up play on Sunday. 

The Gamecocks have five duals this weekend at the LSU Beach Invitational, starting with three on Saturday, March 20. First up is a noon rematch with Southern Miss (3-9), who fell to the Gamecocks 4-1 last weekend at the Carolina Challenge. At 4 p.m. ET, the Gamecocks face New Orleans (3-4), it will be the first meeting between the two teams since 2015. Capping day one of the tournament will be a showdown with preseason No. 1 LSU, who stands at 11-2 overall for the season. The only two blemishes on the Tigers’ record are a pair of losses to Florida State, who enter the week ranked number one in the country.

On day two of the tournament, South Carolina face Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (5-5) for the first time ever. Capping the weekend will be a dual against Houston Baptist, who comes in with a 2-9 overall record but will already have eight games against ranked opponents this season by the time the two sides meet at 3 p.m. ET Sunday.

As year eight of Gamecock beach volleyball gets underway, the team will have a new look to the roster. More than half of the 24-woman roster are either in their first or second season with the program, including six true freshmen and one mid-year graduate transfer. What the team may appear to lack in experience on the roster is more than made up by the experience on its coaching staff. Head coach Moritz Moritz and assistant coach RJ Abella have been together since the program’s first season back in 2014. Across all of collegiate beach volleyball, the duo is currently tied only with defending champion UCLA (Stein Metzger and Jenny Johnson Jordan) in terms of longest tenure together as a staff.

Senior Jess Vastine and junior Jordan Smith are adding to the program record book to kick off 2021, both as a pair and individuals. The duo spent the first two weekends of the season together and went 8-0 at the number four position, which included five wins against nationally ranked opponents and five wins against conference rivals. The eight wins in a row marked the best start to a season for a Gamecock pair since 2017, when Carly Schnieder and Julia Mannisto got a 9-0 start on the way to a 22-10 overall record together. The two moved to different partners last weekend at the Carolina Challenge, but the results remained the same. Vastine went 4-0 with Hannah Mackenhausen and Smith went 4-0 while moving all the way up to number two, collecting a pair of wins with her sister Katie as well as Skylar Allen and Madison Brabham. Their individual 12-0 records are a new program record, breaking the 11-game streaks held by four different individuals: Leah Perri (March 3-24, 2018), Macie Tendrich (March 3-24, 2018), Sarah Blomgren (March 12-27, 2016) and Aubrey Ezell (March 12-27, 2016).

Vastine ranks 10th in program history for career starts (with 73) and for career conference wins (15). Smith now has a career record of 17-7, getting her first real taste of action last season in an abbreviated spring when she went 5-6 at number five with teammate Morgyn Greer.

The team earned its first-ever ranking by the AVCA on March 6, 2017, and have not left the polls since. South Carolina entered the 2021 season with the No. 14 spot in the Jan. 27 coaches preseason poll, marking 40 polls in a row. The Gamecocks peaked at No. 8 in the polls in 2018 and check in at No. 16 for the March 16 poll.

The last two seasons have seen an injection in high school signees making an impact right away for South Carolina. Skylar Allen headlined the group in 2020 with a 5-7 overall record playing in the top positions of the lineup, and classmate Kaeli Crews also saw time in the lineup and as a main exhibition participant. This season, Allen is 8-4 overall and Crews earned her first collegiate win against College of Charleston on March 6. Adding to the depth has been the growth of sophomores Peyton Gray and Sophie Manson, who have solidified the exhibition pairing with a 3-1 record together.

Also this spring, the team has seen two true freshmen crack the starting five. Alyssa Keller is 7-5 overall, including a 3-1 record in the number one pairing. Hannah Mackenhausen is 9-3 through the first three weekends, going 5-3 at number three with Madison Brabham and 4-0 with Jess Vastine at number four this past weekend. 

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 success in the beach game. Since Hayes’ arrival, the team has trained up 10 individuals who have combined for a record of 220-106 (.675) and played key roles on both of the team’s NCAA tournament runs in 2017 and 2018.

This season, three indoor standouts will compete for the Garnet and Black. Madison Brabham was a crossover athlete with Texas A&M-Kingsville, earning All-America conference player of the year honors as a senior for the indoor team but also claiming AVCA Top Flight honors after going 22-8 overall and 21-5 in the No. 2 flight for the Javelinas’ beach team in 2019. Morgyn Greer has a juniors beach volleyball background, but played indoor exclusively for four seasons at Florida, playing in 54 career matches.  The duo made the starting lineup from day one in 2020, combining for 11 wins in an abbreviated spring and moved the group past an impressive milestone – 200 combined wins for the nine. Already through three weekends this season, the two are a combined 19-4.

Nicole Deobler is the third graduate on the roster, joining in December after three seasons at Siena College in upstate New York. Deobler, a California native, played in 62 games at Siena, totaling over 400 kills and 350 career digs over three seasons.

Entering her final season as the team’s active career wins leader, Katie Smith has earned her place in the program’s record book. The West Chester, Ohio native has 79 dual wins, already ranking her second in program history, and her .658 winning percentage in duals puts her third all-time (min. 30 duals). What’s most impressive about those totals has been how she has earned it; of Smith’s 120 career duals, 46 have come at the number one position and 73 have come at number two. Smith’s 25 career wins at number one is the second-most in program history, and her 53 wins at number two is the most in program history and more than the second- and third-place Gamecocks combined. Her success garnered Smith AVCA Top Flight honors in 2018 and 2019. For her efforts, Smith made the 10-woman CCSA Preseason All-Conference team, which was announced on Feb. 24.

South Carolina beach volleyball’s 2020 recruiting class received national recognition over the summer, as the Gamecocks’ six-woman class was ranked tenth in the country by Volleyball Magazine. Additionally, three individuals from the class earned a spot in the magazine’s Girl’s Fab 30 team.

Joining the Gamecocks for the 2020-21 school year are Samantha Ansel (Columbia, Ohio), Sophie Bengoechea (San Antonio, Texas), Jillian Gleason (North Bay, Ontario), Alyssa Keller (Winter Garden, Fla.), Hannah Mackenhausen (San Diego, Calif.) and Lizzie Thompson (Roswell, Georgia). 

Bengoechea, Keller and Mackenhausen all made the Fab 30 team. 

In September, Bengoechea and Keller were also named to the AVCA’s High School Beach All-America second team. The Gamecocks now have seven past honorees on the roster and have eight total in the seven years the award has existed.

“It’s exciting to see to see how fast the youth game is growing in beach volleyball, I think this class is talented and ready to make an instant impact on our roster,” head coach Moritz Moritz said. “We love the mix of size, speed and volleyball IQ that these young women bring to the table. This upcoming season may feature the deepest roster our program has ever had, I’m hopeful that our returners will push this group as much as I know this group will push our returners.”


  • The team played 12 matches before the spring season was ended due to the outbreak of COVID-19, accumulating a 5-7 overall record with 10 of those matches coming against nationally ranked opponents.
  • Among those five wins, three came against teams ranked in the top-15 nationally: No. 4 Southern California, No. 14 Long Beach State and No. 10 Stetson.
  • Katie Smith became the third member of the program ever to reach 75 career wins overall, teaming with Skylar Allen for a win in a 3-2 victory over No. 14 Long Beach St. on March 7.
  • 2020 was the first time in program history that the team did not play a single home match; when the Gamecocks host the Carolina Challenge on March 13-14 it will be the first time at Wheeler Beach since April 13, 2019.
  • Off the sand, the team had its strongest year to date in the classroom. The Gamecocks led the entire South Carolina athletics department in team GPA for both the fall and spring semesters, topping out with a spring GPA of 3.947 that was a program record. Only Georgia State and Stanford can match the Gamecocks’ current streak of AVCA team academic honors – currently six – dating back to the 2014-15 school year.
  • South Carolina junior Jess Vastine was recognized by The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) as an All-American Athlete for her efforts with the indoor and beach volleyball teams following the 2020 season. Vastine is the first-ever honoree for the Gamecock indoor program, and second for the beach volleyball program (Carly Schnieder in 2019).


  • South Carolina holds a 120-76 (.612) 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 37-25 (.596).
  • In matches at Wheeler Beach, Carolina is 55-17 (.763).
  • Moritz Moritz is entering his eighth season as head coach of the Gamecocks, spanning the entire young history of the program. He earned his 100th career win against Texas A&M-Kingsville on April 6, 2019.