Skip to main content
Partner logo
Mobile Icon Link Mobile Icon Link Mobile Icon Link Gamecocks+
Beach Volleyball's Gamecock Grand Slam Features Four Ranked Opponents
Beach Volleyball  . 

Beach Volleyball's Gamecock Grand Slam Features Four Ranked Opponents

The Gamecocks play 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday and 1 and 5 p.m. Sunday

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Postseason aspirations are on the line when five of the top 17 teams in the country descend on Wheeler Beach Saturday and Sunday for the Gamecock Grand Slam. South Carolina (13-4), ranked 15th in the latest national polls, welcomes in No. 9 TCU, No. 16 Stetson, No. 2 Florida State and No. 17 Georgia State for the two-day tournament. The Gamecocks will play at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Saturday, March 27, with 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. duals on Sunday.

As the beach volleyball program sets for its first home event since April 2019, policies regarding fan attendance have changed in response to the outbreak of COVID-19. This spring, attendance at home matches is limited only to player and staff pass lists for both South Carolina and visiting opponents. General attendance for fans is not allowed at this time.
“We are so excited to get to play at home, it’s an unbelievable experience and privilege to play on Wheeler Beach,” head coach Moritz Moritz said. “At the same time, it is imperative we continue to ensure the safety and wellness of our teams, staff and families.” 
“We love having Wheeler Beach as a place for fans to bring the family and spend the day watching great volleyball and, once we are able to, it’s going to be mean even more to see them back cheering us on. It will have a different feel this spring, but we are just grateful for the opportunity to be back here competing together.”
Pass list entrance is only permitted on the north side of the facility, as there will be a strict bubble for teams, staff and game day personnel that includes the sand surface. Masks must be worn at all times in the facility.

It will be a pivotal weekend at Wheeler Beach, as a field full of ranked teams will battle it out for possible postseason positioning. The Gamecock Grand Slam begins with duals against No. 9 TCU and No. 16 Stetson on Saturday. It will be a rematch for both; South Carolina went up 2-0 before losing 3-2 to TCU on the opening weekend of the season, and the showdown with Stetson is the third meeting with the Hatters this season. The Gamecocks won 3-2 at Stetson in the opening weekend of the spring, but lost 3-2 the following weekend at the Coastal Carolina Invitational.

Day two of the tournament features duals with conference foes Florida State and Georgia State. The Seminoles are the number two team in the country and have lost just once in the last 40 duals outside of the NCAA tournament. Georgia State comes in at No. 17 in this week’s poll and owns key early season wins over Florida Atlantic and Tulane. The Gamecocks will need to reverse recent trends, as it has losses in the previous meetings with all four weekend opponents.

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.

Carly Schnieder and Katie Smith came to South Carolina after a stellar high school club career as a pair, winning the AAU National Championship and USA Beach Volleyball National Championship together in the summer of 2016. Now in year five with the Gamecocks, the two are again together – but this time it’s in the program record book. Smith and Schnieder reached 80 career wins in back-to-back weekends earlier this season, and both are within range of Macie Tendrich‘s program record of 93 career dual wins as an individual. Smith and Schnieder currently rank second and third, respectively, for career wins, but the record book assault doesn’t end there. Smith is the program leader for career conference wins (38), career wins versus ranked opponents (28) and career matches played (133). Schnieder is part of the program’s all-time winningest pair (43 wins with Julia Mannisto) and ranks second for conference wins, ranked wins and is fifth in overall matches played.

Junior Jordan Smith‘s dream season continues, as she brings a 17-0 record into the Gamecock Grand Slam weekend. Her streak is a program record, surpassing the previous 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). Smith and partner Jess Vastine started the year with a 8-0 record together, including four wins over ranked opponents, and the two continued to succeed after matching up with new partners. Vastine’s individual streak ended at 14, but Smith has continued on despite moving all the way up to second in the lineup. She and her sister Katie teamed up during the Carolina Challenge tournament on March 14 and have a 7-0 record at number two together.

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. So far this season, the two are a combined 25-7.

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.

The team earned its first-ever ranking by the AVCA on March 6, 2017, and have not left the polls since. The Gamecocks peaked at No. 8 in the polls in 2018 and check in at No. 15 for the March 23 poll, marking 44 weeks in a row as a ranked team. 

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 10-7 overall and Crews earned her first collegiate win against College of Charleston on March 6. Adding to the depth has been the growth of fellow sophomores Peyton Gray and Sophie Manson, who have solidified the exhibition pairing with a 3-1 record together and a 3-0 record for Manson outside of the pairing.

Also this spring, the team has seen two true freshmen crack the starting five. Alyssa Keller is 9-8 overall, including a 5-4 record in the number one pairing. Hannah Mackenhausen is 12-5 through the first four weekends, going 5-3 at number three with Madison Brabham and 7-2 with Jess Vastine at number four. 

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 84 dual wins, already ranking her second in program history, and her .672 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 125 career duals, 46 have come at the number one position and 78 have come at number two. Smith’s 25 career wins at number one is the second-most in program history, and her 58 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 Gamecock Grand Slam is the second weekend tournament for South Carolina this season where the entire field is ranked in the top-20 nationally. So far this season, the team is 2-4 against ranked opponents, with three of those four losses coming by 3-2 margins.

On the team’s 2021 schedule
“This schedule was challenging to put together, we had to maintain a level of quality opponents that best prepare us to pursue our goal of winning in the postseason while also keeping our team as safe as possible. As we get ready for this season, we are preparing to be the best versions of ourselves because this year, more than any, we need to be ready for unpredictability across the net from us. It’s still fresh in our minds how we were progressing last season before we were stopped. I think it will be cathartic for us when we’re finally standing with our feet in the sand ready to play a match. We are really going to cherish that moment, because we truly can appreciate how fortunate we are to be together as a family playing a sport we all love so much.”


  • 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 124-77 (.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 38-26 (.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.