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Beach Volleyball Opens Season in Tampa
Beach Volleyball  . 

Beach Volleyball Opens Season in Tampa

Tampa Invite Notes

TAMPA, FLA. – South Carolina Beach volleyball jumps into the sand for its first weekend of competition this weekend, traveling south for the Tampa Invite from Feb. 23-24. The Gamecocks, ranked 17th in the American Volleyball Coaches Association’s preseason top-20 poll, will face four opponents over the two-day tournament, hosted by the University of Tampa. Along with the home Spartans, South Carolina will face No. 11 FAU, No. 12 Georgia State and No. 18 Arizona State.


  • South Carolina won its lone meeting with Tampa. The Gamecocks swept the Spartans in the first meeting, coming exactly five years ago (2/23/19).
  • The Spartans are coming off a championship season where they earned a record of 21-13 and won their third AVCA Division II National Championship, all coming over the last five seasons. 
  • Two of their players earned all-american honors: Payton Brunick is just the fifth Spartan in program history to be named an all-american, after earning 21 victories between both the first and second pairings. Julia Oswald was named an all-american for the second time in her career after also posting 21 wins last spring. The two combined for a 19-6 record together at number one.


  • The Gamecocks lead the all-time series. 8-2 (since 2014)
  • In the last meeting between the two teams, the Gamecocks won 3-2 (March 19, 2022)
  • FAU enter the season ranked 11th in the AVCA coaches poll, the highest preseason ranking in program history. It is the seventh consecutive year FAU opens the spring ranked in the top 20. 
  • Steve Grotowski is going into his second full season as the Owls head coach, coming off a 2023 C-USA Coach of the year award. He led them to their first C-USA Championship and the team’s second-ever NCAA Tournament appearance. 
  • The team returns a number of key starters, including Ashleigh Adams (20 wins in 2023, 13 coming in the top two positions) and Julie Honzovicova (24 wins, nine at number one and 13 at number two). FAU’s strength in 2023 came from the middle of its lineup, with its number two position going 24-8 over and and the third and fourth pairings each going 22-10.


  • The Gamecocks lead the all-time series, 3-1 (since 2015)
  • In the last meeting, South Carolina defeated Arizona State 4-1 (March 25, 2023)
  • The Sun Devils are coming off an 11-13 record in 2023, including a 6-5 mark in Pac-12 play. There are 11 players returning, led by graduate student Lexi Sweeney. She was named to the All-Pac-12 second team and finished the season with an 11-13 overall record playing at number one. 
  • This will be the team’s first season led by new head coach Kristen Rohr. She spent her previous eight seasons coaching at Grand Canyon where she led the ‘Lopes to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances in 2022 and 2023 and held a 148-71 record. 
  • Her roster is enhanced by five transfers and five freshmen. The core of transfers figures to provide an instant boost across the lineup, with additions Samaya Morin (GCU, Team USA U21 team), Arden Besecker (Florida State), Daniella Kensinger (Saint Mary’s, went 21-13 as a freshman in 2023), Ava Kirunchyk (Southern Cal) and Hayden Huber (TCU).


  • Georgia State lead the all-time series, 11-7 (since 2014)
  • The Panthers won the last meeting, 4-1 (April 8, 2023)
  • After coming off a 2023 season in which the Panthers claimed the inaugural Sun Belt Conference Beach Volleyball Championship, the team is ranked 12th going into the 2024 season. 
  • The Panthers finished 2023 with a 20-17 record, and a final ranking of 14th. This was their tenth consecutive winning season. 
  • GSU returns one of the nation’s top pairs in All-Americans Angel Ferary and Bella Ferary. The seniors were recognized as the 2023 Sun Belt Conference Pair of the Year after winning 19 matches together in the top position of the lineup. 


  • The preseason CCSA all-conference team was announced on Wednesday, Feb. 21, with a pair of Gamecocks making the squad. Skylar Allen and Hannah Mackenhausen represented South Carolina on the 10-member team, with senior Sophie Bengoechea earning the conference’s fan-voted player of the year recognition. Allen was one of five unanimous selections
  • This spring, the Gamecocks face eight of the 16 teams from the 2023 NCAA tournament field.
  • In the fall exhibition season, South Carolina sent two pairs to the AVCA Collegiate Pairs Championship, hosted at John Hunt Park in Huntsville, Ala. from Nov. 3-5 – senior Skylar Allen and sophomore Jolie Cranford, and graduate student Allison Coens and senior Rebeca Olariu. Allen and Cranford finished as the runners-up in the consolation bracket, finishing the weekend with a 5-3 record. Coens and Olariu finished with a 2-5 record.
  • In the weekend prior, at the AVCA National Qualifier tournament – also held in Huntsville – Allen and Cranford finished third out of 26 pairs to earn South Carolina the second bid to the national championship. The two went 5-1, with the only loss coming to the eventual tournament winners from LSU.

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. 17 in the February 16 preseason poll, marking 74 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, ‘22, and ‘23), South Carolina averages around 15 duals played against ranked opponents per season. Of the team’s 32 duals on the schedule in 2024, 11 are against teams ranked in the preseason poll and seven more against teams receiving votes in the poll.

South Carolina’s record book may look a little different in May, if Skylar Allen and Hannah Mackenhausen have anything to say about it. The two standouts are nearing a handful of career records as they kick off their final seasons in Columbia. Allen, who already is a two-time all-american, is coming off a 2023 season where she and partner Simone Priebe became the first Carolina pair to win 20 games in the number one position. Mackenhausen, perhaps the most underrated defender in collegiate beach volleyball, is coming in on the heels of back-to-back 20-win seasons and owns one of the highest winning percentages in program history (at .688). 

Entering the opening weekend of the season, the Gamecock coaching staff are searching for a new look to the lineup. The team lost nine players who recorded at least one win in the lineup in 2023 and half of its starting lineup from the 2023 CCSA conference tournament, most notably Simone Priebe (20-10 at No. 1), Lauren Wilcock (17-8 overall), Kaeli Crews (17-14 overall). The team does return three 20-game winners in Skylar Allen, Hannah Mackenhausen and Allison Coens, as well as CCSA All-Freshman team honoree Jolie Cranford. Also in the mix for increased time in the lineup are six Gamecocks who made at least one start during the 2023 campaign.

There is a sizable disparity on the roster when it comes to experience; outside of Allen (104 career starts), Mackenhausen (95) and Coens (75), the remaining Gamecocks with the most matches played are Rebeca Olariu (54, but only one start at South Carolina), Kennedy Westendorff (28) and Cranford (27). Out of the 20 women on the roster, 13 have started in 16 or fewer matches at the collegiate level.

With the sport of beach volleyball as competitive as ever, a point here or there can make all the difference in a team’s postseason aspirations. In 2023, South Carolina was 5-4 in duals that had a 3-2 final score, had a 32-31 record in “deuce” sets (sets decided by the minimum of two points) and held a 21-20 record for individual matches that went to three sets.

Over the summer, the Gamecocks added a pair of transfers from TCU to the roster. Joining the team are senior Peyton Yamagata (Ashburn, Va.) and graduate student McKenzie Nichols (Southlake, Texas). Yamagata spent three seasons with TCU’s beach team, making the starting lineup 16 times with a 13-3 record in those matches. Her best season was in 2022, when she was 10-1 as a sophomore. 

Nichols played exclusively with the indoor team at TCU, leaving the program ranked fifth in its history for career assists (2,692) while playing in 99 career matches over four seasons. During her high school career, however, Nichols was an accomplished beach volleyball player, highlighted by a Beach Volleyball Clubs of America (BVCA) national title in the 14U Gold division in 2015. 

There will be a pair of two-sport athletes on the roster this spring, with junior Hanna Bissler and senior Riley Whitesides stepping over from indoor volleyball to beach. Bissler (Chardon, Ohio) transferred to South Carolina over the summer after two seasons at Miami (Fla.). In the fall, she played in all 27 games for the team, appearing in 93 total sets as a defensive specialist and libero. Whitesides joined beach last spring for the first time and made more starts in the exhibition pairing than anyone else on the roster. She made her first start against Southeastern Louisiana on March 5, 2023, sweeping the Lions with partner Hailey Cabeceiras.

Prior to Whitesides last spring, the most recent 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.


The American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) announced its annual Team Academic Award recipients over the summer, and South Carolina was one of 46 Division I beach programs to be recognized. The Gamecocks stand as one of only three beach programs in the country to own a streak of nine seasons in a row making the list, joining Georgia State and Stanford. 

Carolina is also one of just 11 Division I beach programs to be part of the Honor Roll, given to teams in the top 20 percent for team GPA in each division. The team is part of an exclusive group with academic and on-court success, as it is one of four beach volleyball programs to be in the honor roll while also being ranked in the top 20 of the final AVCA coaches poll of the 2023 season. Individually, every member of the team made either the SEC’s Spring or First-Year Honor Rolls and four Gamecocks made the Coastal Collegiate Sports Association’s All-Academic team.

In the fall, beach volleyball recorded a cumulative team GPA of 3.73, the second highest in the department.


  • Skylar Allen and Simone Priebe were one of 16 total pairs to earn All-America honors by the American Volleyball Coaches Association.  It was Allen’s second time making the team, for Priebe it was her first. It is just the second time in program history that South Carolina collected a postseason all-American certificate from the sport’s governing body.
  • Allen and Priebe also earned all-conference honors from the Coastal Collegiate Sports Association. They finished the season with a 20-10 overall record, playing exclusively in the number one position in the lineup. The pair are the first in program history to reach 20 wins on court one in a single season.
  • Carolina finished its 10th season as a varsity sport with a 19-12 overall record.  Carolina has won at least 60 percent of its matches in 7 of its 10 seasons.  The Gamecocks finished the season 17th in the final AVCA Beach Top-20 poll.
  • With a sweep of Southeastern Louisiana on March 5, junior Hannah Mackenhausen moved 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 carried a .685 win percentage. 
  • Skylar Allen joined the 50-win club thanks to a sweep of Stephen F. Austin on March 10, recording a career win percentage of .595 on the way to 50. Allen made it to 50 wins the hard way – she was making her 71st start in the No. 1 position when she recorded her 50th win.
  • Kaeli Crews and Hannah Mackenhausen hit a milestone win on March 25 against Houston Christian. The duo are just the fifth Gamecock pair in program history to reach 25 career wins together, and their current total of 28 wins currently ranks fourth.


  • South Carolina holds a 173-106 (.620) 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 46-36 (.561).
  • In matches at Wheeler Beach, Carolina is 77-26 (.748), including a 19-8 record against CCSA conference opponents.
  • Moritz Moritz is in his 11th 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.
  • South Carolina has two postseason tournament appearances, making the NCAA eight-team field in 2017 and 2018.
  • The Gamecocks have two all-americans in program history: Katie Smith (2021) and Skylar Allen (2021 and 2023).

For continued updates on the team, follow @GamecockBeachVB on Twitter/X and Instagram.