Gamecocks to Compete in Tiger Beach Challenge
BATON ROUGE, LA. – Week two of the season sees South Carolina beach volleyball back on the road, the Gamecocks (1-3) travel to Baton Rouge for LSU’s Tiger Beach Challenge. The two-day tournament features three duals on Saturday, March 4, capped by a showdown with the fifth-ranked Tigers, with two more duals on Sunday.
SCOUTING THE WEEKEND FIELD
- South Carolina leads the all-time series, 10-1 ( Since 2014). In the last meeting, the Gamecocks won, 3-2 (April 2, 2022).
- The Gamecocks have won five games in a row over the Blazers.
- UAB finished the 2022 season with a 17-18 overall record. In week one, the team went 2-2 with wins over Central Arkansas and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
- This will be the first meeting between the two programs.
- The Lions compete in the ASUN Conference.
- UNA finished the 2022 season with a 16-14 overall record, a program record for most wins in a single season. In week one, the team went 1-3 with a win over Nicholls.
- LSU leads the all-time series, 13-2 (Since 2014). In the last meeting, LSU won 5-0 (April 29, 2022).
- South Carolina has made four trips to Baton Rouge in the all-time series, most recently in 2021.
- LSU finished the 2022 season ranked 5th nationally, qualifying for the NCAA tournament and finishing with a 32-12 overall record. In week one, the team went 4-0 with wins over Tulane, North Alabama, Nicholls and New Orleans.
- South Carolina is 1-0 in the all-time series; the two teams met for the first time last season with the Gamecocks winning 5-0 on March 4.
- The Bears compete in the ASUN Conference.
- Central Arkansas finished the 2022 season with a 17-16 overall record. In week one, the team went 0-4 at Houston Christian.
- This will be the first meeting between the two programs. The Lions are coached by former Gamecock student manager Collin Wilson.
- Southeastern is starting up year four and will lean on three seniors who finished 2022 with 20 wins as individuals.
- The Lions finished the 2022 season with a 12-21 overall record. In week one, the team went 3-2 with wins over Spring Hill, Chattanooga and William Carey.
SEMINOLE BEACH BASH NOTABLES
- Three Gamecocks made their debuts in week one – Allison Coens, Jolie Cranford and Simone Priebe – and all three recorded their first wins in the Garnet and Black. Cranford teamed with sophomore Lauren Wilcock for the team’s winningest pair of the weekend. The duo went 3-1 at the number four pairing.
- VB Trost and Riley Whitesides also competed for the first time, both seeing action on the exhibition court.
- The team’s 5-0 win over No. 13 Cal Poly in the season opener was the fourth time in program history that it swept a ranked opponent.
- Over the four duals, the team went 2-3 in three-set matches and of the 45 total sets played, 14 were deuce sets (decided by the minimum two points) The Gamecocks came out on top in six of those 14 sets.
- The preseason CCSA all-conference team was announced on Wednesday, Feb. 22, with a pair of Gamecocks making the squad. Simone Priebe and Kaeli Crews represented the 10-member team, with freshman Jolie Cranford also on the conference’s Watch List.
- On the 2023 schedule, the Gamecocks will face eight of the 16 teams that made up the 2022 NCAA tournament field.
- The team spent three weekends competing in pairs tournaments during the fall semester, starting at home on Oct. 8 with an all-day pairs tournament on Wheeler Beach. The Gamecocks hosted UNCW, College of Charleston and Coastal Carolina and finished the day with a 28-4 record in matches. The next competition was the Collegiate Beach Bash Oct. 28-29, with a field of over 75 pairs and 10 teams. The larger field didn’t slow down the team’s success, South Carolina finished the two-day tournament with a 39-15 record – the win total and win percentage led all teams in attendance.
- The team split up for the final weekend of the fall, as the AVCA hosted the first-ever Collegiate Pairs National Championship Nov. 4-6, also in Huntsville. The Gamecocks received two bids for the tournament, sending Skylar Allen and Simone Priebe in one pair and Kaeli Crews and Hannah Mackenhausen in the other. Allen and Priebe finished 11th overall in the field of 64 pairs, Crews and Mackenhausen placed 50th.
VETERAN STAFF ENTERS YEAR 10
With South Carolina reaching its 10th season of competition, Head coach Moritz Moritz and assistant coach RJ Abella have been together since day one.. Across all of collegiate beach volleyball, the duo is currently tied only with UCLA (Stein Metzger and Jenny Johnson Jordan) in terms of longest tenure together as a staff. Along with NCAA tournament berths in 2017 and 2018, the coaches have also enjoyed six 20-win seasons and a .621 win percentage through the first nine seasons.
SOPHOMORE CORP ASKED TO TAKE NEXT STEP
Year two will be an important one for three South Carolina sophomores, two of which already are contributing in the starting lineup. Kennedy Westendorff earned a spot in the team’s lineup at the CCSA conference tournament last April, coming in at the fifth flight, and started her 2023 season all the way up in the second pairing with Kaeli Crews. The two went 2-2 at the Seminole Beach Bash, capped off by an impressive three-set win over No. 2 Florida State.
Lauren Wilcock already made a good first impression, her 24 wins in 2022 matched the program record for a freshman. She started the season in Tallahassee the fourth position, paired with freshman Jolie Cranford. The two were the most successful Gamecock pair on the weekend, picking up three wins over top-20 opponents with the lone blemish coming against the Seminoles.
The final sophomore to keep an eye on this spring is Chase Teal. She spent week one competing in the exhibition pair but may soon find her way into a starting spot. As a freshman, injuries pressed her into the No. 1 pairing late in the season and she came away with wins against College of Charleston and UNCW. The coaching staff is high on her fall development and could put her back in the mix.
ALLEN NEARS IMPRESSIVE RECORD
Skylar Allen already owns a place in program history as its first all-american, but the senior is nearing some notable milestones going into her fourth spring. She is already the fifth Gamecock to ever reach 20 career wins in the No. 1 position of the lineup, her 38 wins currently ranks second all-time behind only Shannon Williams (45 wins from 2016-19).
Of the five women with 20 or more wins at No. 1, Allen’s career win percentage of .575 is the highest. Overall, Allen enters the season with 46 career wins and can realistically become the 10th Gamecock in program history to reach 50 wins early in the spring.
TRIO BUILDING OFF 2022 SUCCESS
Three Gamecocks made a big jump last spring and are hoping to make a habit of winning in 2023. Senior Kaeli Crews went from two career starts as a freshman and sophomore to a 24-win season in 2022, including eight wins against ranked opponents and a 13-3 record in the number three pairing. Her partner for the majority of last season, Hannah Mackenhausen, also had a career performance. Now a junior, Mackenhausen built off a 19-13 record as a freshman to go 24-8 in 2022. Lauren Wilcock started her career as a Gamecock off on a high note, going 24-8 as a freshman, including a 21-7 record at the No. 2 position. Her win total and .750 winning percentage for the season were both the best by a Gamecock freshman in program history.
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. The Gamecocks peaked at No. 8 in the polls in 2018 and check in at No. 19 in the Feb. 28 poll, marking 61 weekly rankings in a row in the coaches poll. As the team has maintained its poll position, so has its scheduling; over the last five completed seasons (2017, ‘18, ‘19, ‘21 and ‘22), South Carolina averages around 15 duals played against ranked opponents per season.
TRANSFERS BOLSTER GAMECOCK ROSTER
South Carolina returns six players who started in at least half of the team’s duals from 2022, but did lose a pair of 20-game winners with Jordan Smith and Abby Carroll along with Whitley Ballard (12-11 at No. 1) and Alyssa Keller (13-5). To fill the gaps in the roster, the staff brought in three transfers who figure to push for starting spots from day one. Graduate transfers Simone Priebe (Pepperdine) and Allison Coens (LSU) competed for four and three seasons, respectively, for their previous teams and junior Rebeca Olariu (College of Charleston) made 53 career starts in her first two seasons as a college athlete – 25 of those starts coming at the number one position for the Cougars.
Priebe totaled 66 career wins and a total winning percentage of .712 at Pepperdine, topped off by career year in 2022 with a 26-7 record in the number two pairing and a spot on the All-WCC first team and Top Flight honors from the AVCA. Coens won a personal-best 23 matches as a freshman at LSU in 2019, including 15 against ranked opponents, and comes to South Carolina with a career record of 32-13. Olariu held her own as a freshman in 2021, winning 12 matches in the top pairing for Charleston and won 14 matches in 2022 while moving all around the lineup.
WHITESIDES HITS THE BEACH
Fans of South Carolina volleyball will recognize a familiar face in the sand this spring, as junior Riley Whitesides joined the roster in January. Whitesides proved to be a versatile athlete on the hardwood, totaling 775 kills and 497 digs through her first three seasons indoors. Most recently, she ranked second on the team in kills, averaging 2.65 per set, and became only the second member of the program over the last 20 seasons with a serve reception percentage north of .960 with 700 or more total receptions.
The last Gamecock to compete as both an indoor and beach volleyball player was Jess Vastine (2017-21), who finished with a career record of 52-41. Whitesides made the travel team for the opening weekend at Florida State, competing in the exhibition pairing with Chase Teal and VB Trost.
2022 SEASON NOTABLES
- The Gamecocks finished the 2022 season with a 20-12 overall record and finished 5th in the Coastal Collegiate Sports Association.
- South Carolina’s sweep of Erskine on April 20 locked in the team’s sixth 20-win season in program history. Counting only completed seasons the six seasons have come all in a row, starting back in 2016. During this run, the program’s overall record stands at 125-73 (.628).
- Head coach Moritz Moritz earned his 150th career win vs. College of Charleston on April 9, 2022.
- Carolina finished the season ranked #19 in the final AVCA Collegiate Rankings. The squad reached as high as 14th in the middle of March and never fell out of the Top 20.
- Marquee Carolina victories this season came against No. 11 Florida Atlantic, No. 15 Pepperdine, No. 20 Florida Gulf Coast and No. 20 Tulane.
- Carolina was led by freshman Lauren Wilcock, sophomore Hannah Mackenhausen, junior Kaeli Crews and senior Jordan Smith. All four posted 20+ wins during the season and had winning records against ranked opponents.
- Wilcock’s team-high 24 wins as an individual put her just three behind Macie Tendrich’s single-season program record of 27 victories.
- Wilcock made the CCSA’s five-woman All-Freshman team, making her just the third Gamecock in program history to make the list. On the CCSA’s All-Academic team, four more individuals were honored: Skylar Allen, Whitley Ballard, Kaeli Crews and Jordan Smith. It’s the most individuals ever to make the cut for South Carolina.
- Jordan Smith won her 50th career match on April 15, defeating Coastal Carolina. She is the ninth Gamecock in program history to reach 50 wins and passed Macie Tendrich’s record for fastest road to 50 wins. Tendrich previously reached it in 68 games, Smith needed only 65.
- South Carolina holds a 155-97 (.615) 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 46-34 (.575).
- In matches at Wheeler Beach, Carolina is 68-24 (.739).
- Moritz Moritz is in his tenth season as head coach of the Gamecocks, spanning the entire young history of the program. He earned his 100th career win vs. Texas A&M-Kingsville on April 6, 2019.