Beach Volleyball Hosts Carolina Challenge to Open Home Schedule
COLUMBIA, S.C. – After spending its first two weeks of the 2023 season on the road, No. 19 South Carolina (5-4) opens the home schedule with the Carolina Challenge, running March 10-11 at Wheeler Beach. The Gamecocks face Stephen F. Austin at 11 a.m. and No. 12 Stetson at 5 p.m. on Friday, then Tulane at 11 a.m. and UNCW at 3 p.m. on Saturday.
This spring, attendance at home matches at Wheeler Beach is again free and open to the general public. Please continue to follow the athletics department’s clear bag policy. Fan entrance is only permitted on the north side of the facility through the main gate and only participating teams and game-day personnel are permitted on the sand surface.
TIGER BEACH CHALLENGE NOTABLES
- Five individuals notched their first wins of the season over the weekend, with two Gamecocks – freshman Sadie Nelson and junior Riley Whitesides – winning their first career matches.
- Injuries forced the lineup into shuffled looks all weekend, but gave valuable experience to the team’s depth. Over the five duals, the Gamecocks used 13 different pairs and all 14 individuals who traveled to LSU made at least one start.
- Junior Hannah Mackenhausen moved from the No. 3 pairing up to No. 2 for the final three duals of the weekend, but she still continued to win. Her 5-0 weekend as an individual moved her to 50 career wins, making her the 11th member of the program to reach the career milestone. On the way to her 50 wins, Mackenhausen holds a .685 win percentage.
- Mackenhausen was part of another milestone moment over the weekend. She paired back up with Kaeli Crews and went 3-0 on court two, which included a sweep of No. 5 LSU. The duo now has 22 career wins together, dating back to last season, only seven other Gamecock pairs in program history have more victories together.
- Senior Skylar Allen went 3-2 on court one over the weekend, pushing her past 40 career wins in the number one position. She joins Shannon Williams (2016-19) as the only Gamecocks with 40 or more wins at No. 1 in a career.
- Despite losing her week one partner to injury, freshman Jolie Cranford just kept winning. The Colorado native played with three different partners over the five weekend duals – Sammy Ansel, Hailey Cabeceiras and Peyton Gray – but still went 4-1. For the season, Cranford’s 7-2 record is tied for the best on the team, with her only two losses coming to No. 2 Florida State and No. 5 LSU.
- 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.
- This spring, the Gamecocks will face eight of the 16 teams from 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.
SCOUTING THE WEEKEND FIELD
STEPHEN F. AUSTIN
- This will be the first meeting between the two programs.
- SFA is joining the Sun Belt Conference for the 2023 season, moving over from the ASUN.
- The Lady Jacks finished the 2022 season with a 14-20 overall record.
- Stetson leads the all-time series, 8-3 (Since 2016).
- In the last meeting, the Hatters won, 3-2 (April 1, 2022).
- The Hatters have won four games in a row after the Gamecocks took three of the previous four matchups. Stetson is 4-0 on Wheeler Beach; overall the home team in the series is just 1-6.
- Stetson finished the 2022 season ranked 14th nationally, qualifying for the NCAA tournament with a 23-17 overall record.
- South Carolina leads the all-time series, 11-3 (Since 2015).
- In the last meeting, Tulane beat the Gamecocks in the CCSA conference tournament with a 3-2 win on April 28, snapping a six-game losing streak.
- Tulane added a pair of veteran transfers (Molly Ebertin, USC and Abby Jackson, FAU) to a roster that is already loaded with eight returning starters who were in the team’s postseason lineup.
- The Wave finished the 2022 season with a 24-13 overall record and were receiving votes for the AVCA top-20 rankings.
- South Carolina leads the all-time series, 11-0 ( Since 2016).
- In the last meeting, the Gamecocks won, 4-1 (April 9, 2022).
- The Seahawks made a splash in their first season with the ASUN Conference, winning 25 games as a team and returning five individuals who won 20 or more matches in 2022.
- UNCW finished the 2022 season with a 25-11 overall record. The win total set a program record.
NIFTY 50 FOR MACKENHAUSEN
With a sweep of Southeastern Louisiana on March 5, junior Hannah Mackenhausen moved her to 50 career wins, making her the 11th member of the program to reach the career milestone. On the way to her 50 wins, Mackenhausen holds a .685 win percentage.
ROSTER DEPTH PUT TO THE TEST EARLY
The Gamecocks have put their roster to the test through the first two weekends, with injuries to starters forcing some unforsee lineup changes. Through nine duals, South Carolina have used 13 different pairs. The combination of Skylar Allen and Simone Priebe on court one is the only pairing that have played all nine duals together. Individually, 15 Gamecocks have at least one start so far and six of them have played in multiple flights of the lineup – led by sophomore Chase Teal, who already has wins on courts three, four and five.
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. Wilcock missed week two due to injury.
The final sophomore to keep an eye on this spring is Chase Teal. She earned the start in the fives against No. 2 Florida State in week one, then made the lineup in each of the five duals down at LSU. Teal went 2-0 with Jillian Gleason to start the tournament, then moved up to the number three position with Allison Coens due to injuries and picked up two more wins on day two. Just nine starts into her career, the versatile defender already has wins in the first, third, fourth and fifth positions.
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 41 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 March 7 poll, marking 62 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 and have faced five ranked teams through its first nine duals.
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 each of the first two roadtrips; at LSU she went 3-0 on the exhibition court before earning her first career start in the weekend finale vs. Southeastern Louisiana. Teaming with Hailey Cabeceiras, Whitesides earned her first win with a 21-7, 21-14 sweep on court five.
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 159-98 (.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 46-35 (.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.