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Gamecock Beach Volleyball Hosts Carolina Challenge
Beach Volleyball  . 

Gamecock Beach Volleyball Hosts Carolina Challenge


COLUMBIA, S.C. – The beach volleyball team returns home to host the Carolina Challenge this weekend, running Saturday and Sunday, March 9-10, with matches against Tennessee Tech, North Florida, New Orleans and Eastern Kentucky. The Gamecocks (4-4) compete at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. each day.

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. Fans are encouraged to park at metered spots around Heyward Street, pictured below. The gravel lot between Heyward Street and the outdoor tennis facility is only open when weather permits. Please refer to the athletics village parking guide site (updated weekly) for the most up-to-date information.


  • Peyton Yamagata and Abigail Lagemann each picked up their first wins as Gamecocks in the weekend finale against Charleston. The pair went three sets in each of the four duals this weekend and finally broke through. For the season, five of Yamagata and Lagemann’s seven total matches together have gone three sets and Charleston was their first victory.
  • The team’s second, fourth and fifth pairings went 4-0 for the weekend and dropped just one set combined between the three duos. Seniors Hannah Mackenhausen and Riley Whitesides would be the clinching point in all four of the team wins and move to 6-2 for the spring as a pair, best on the team.
  • Mackenhausen’s 26 career starts on court two moves her past Kaeli Crews (2020-23) for eighth-most in program history. Her 17 wins on two are seventh-most, tied now with Aubrey Ezell (2016-18).
  • Also in the record book, Mackenhausen reached 70 career wins after taking down Charleston. She is the fifth Gamecock in program history with 70 career dual wins.
  • Skylar Allen made her 100th career start in the top pairing in the weekend finale against Charleston. Allen already held the program record for most starts on court one, only six other Gamecocks in program history have more than 100 career starts overall.
  • South Carolina is now 81-26 (.757) all time in its home sand of Wheeler Beach.



  • This will be the first meeting between the two programs. Tennessee Tech debuted as a beach volleyball program in 2023, finishing with a 8-12 overall record and 4-6 mark in the Ohio Valley Conference. The Golden Eagles were picked to finish fourth in the OVC this spring.
  • Freshman Jordan Karlen earned the program’s first-ever postseason honor in 2023, making the OVC’s all-freshman team after playing every dual. Karlen did not compete in the team’s first weekend of competition.
  • Veterans Bella Powell and Madolyn Isringhausen anchored the top spot in the lineup to open the season, the pair went 3-1 at number one after being mainstays in the lineup last spring.


  • UNF won 24 duals last spring and return an number of key contributors. Seven Ospreys who won 20 or more matches in 2023 are back, highlighted by preseason all-conference members Madison Espy and Presley Murray. The two went 27-5 together in 2023, including 18 wins on court two.
  • UNF earned three superlative awards (Scholar-Athlete of the Year, Freshman of the Year, Coach of the Year) and placed four pairs on the ASUN All-Conference squad in 2023.
  • The team went 3-1 last weekend at home, defeating Mercer and Jacksonville and splitting a doubleheader with FGCU.


  • New Orleans finished 2023 with a 21-17 overall record, making the semifinal round of the Southland Conference tournament. The 21 wins were a program record.
  • The Privateers are led by sophomore Maria Ozaeta. In 2023 the Spaniard recorded a 21-13 overall record in the No. 1 position.
  • Fellow returner Hannah Volpi finished the year with a 19-13 overall record, primarily in the No. 3 position. She is a two-time all-conference honoree.
  • The roster got a boost from Central Arkansas transfer Bria Garmon. Last spring, she competed primarily in the No. 1 pair at UCA.  


  • EKU set a single-season program record for wins as the Colonels ended the 2023 season with a 15-15 record.
  • The team will need to replace one of the best players in the program’s history. Hannah Keating ended her 2023 senior season with 20 individual wins, setting a school record for a single season.
  • Veterans Paityn Walker and Sarah Mitchell have teamed up in the number one pairing to start the spring.
  • The Colonels are coming off a road weekend at UAB, taking down UT Martin but losing to UTEP, No. 15 FAU and the host Blazers. 

The Gamecocks enter the week unranked in the AVCA coaches top-20 poll, but are one of five teams receiving votes. South Carolina peaked at No. 8 in the poll in 2018 and checked in at No. 17 in the February 16 preseason poll, the 74th weekly rankings in a row in the coaches poll. After a 0-4 first weekend, though, the team dropped out of the top-20 for the first time since the current freshman class was in middle school.

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.

Seniors Hannah Mackenhausen and Riley Whitesides were the lockdown pair for South Carolina in the Wheeler Beach Bash tournament. Over four duals, the pair provided the clinching point in each of South Carolina’s victories. on Saturday, the pair wrapped up the team’s 4-1 win over Chattanooga with a 21-16, 21-15 sweep of the twos, then returned with a key win in the evening. With the Gamecocks holding to a 2-1 lead over Coastal Carolina, Mackenhausen and Whitesides overcame a first set loss and held the Chanticleers to 21 points total over the next two sets in a 16-21, 21-13, 15-8 win to clinch the team victory in a 3-2 decision. On Sunday, they only allowed their two opponents to reach 14 points once over four total sets, sweeping UNCW and College of Charleston and clinching the team win again in both duals. The two are now 6-2 together for the season, the best record on the team.

Mackenhausen’s 26 career starts on court two moves her past Kaeli Crews (2020-23) for eighth-most in program history. Her 17 wins on two are seventh-most, tied now with Aubrey Ezell (2016-18). Also in the record book, Mackenhausen reached 70 career wins after taking down Charleston. She is the fifth Gamecock in program history with 70 career dual wins.

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 .674). 

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 (108 career starts), Mackenhausen (99) and Coens (78), the remaining Gamecocks with the most matches played are Rebeca Olariu (54, but only one start at South Carolina), Kennedy Westendorff (28) and Cranford (31). Out of the 20 women on the roster, 15 have started in 25 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 week one, the odds did not come out in South Carolina’s favor. Over the four duals at the Tampa Invite, the team went to three sets in 10 of the 20 total matches, including all five courts in the team’s game against No. 11 FAU. Of those 10 three-set matches, the Gamecocks went 1-9. On top of that, the team had 15 “deuce” sets (scores decided by the minimum of two points) over the four games and lost 10 of those sets and five of those 10 lost came in the third set.

The success rate swung back to the middle in week two, where the team had a 3-3 record in three-set matches and were 2-3 in sets that were decided by two points.

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. At the Tampa Invite, she and partner Hannah Mackenhausen led the team with two wins, coming against Tampa and No. 12 Georgia State.

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.


  • 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.


  • 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 177-110 (.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 81-26 (.757), 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 175th career win vs. Coastal Carolina on March 2, 2024.
  • 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).