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Gamecocks Open Conference Tournament Play Friday
Beach Volleyball  . 

Gamecocks Open Conference Tournament Play Friday

HUNTSVILLE, ALA. – South Carolina beach volleyball begins postseason play on Friday, April 26, when it faces No. 4 Florida State in the opening round of the Coastal Collegiate Sports Association’s conference tournament. The Gamecocks (18-14) are the fourth seed in the tournament, held at John Hunt Park Sand Volleyball Complex in Huntsville, Ala. The dual against the top-seeded Seminoles will begin at 11 a.m. ET.

The tournament is a double-elimination format – the winner of the South Carolina and Florida State dual will play the winner of No. 10 LSU and No. 17 Grand Canyon at 2:30 p.m. and the losing teams from both duals will square off in an elimination game Friday afternoon at 4 p.m.

For continued updates on the team and its upcoming schedule, follow @GamecockBeachVB on Twitter and Instagram.


  • The team holds an 18-14 record entering postseason play. The 14 losses are the most in a single season since 2016, however, seven came by a 3-2 margin and 10 of the 14 came against nationally ranked opponents.
  • South Carolina’s top two pairs for wins this spring will, ironically, not be paired up for the conference tournament. Skylar Allen and Allison Coens were an all-conference pairing and went 15-9 overall with 10 wins on court one. Also with 15 wins together this spring was Hannah Mackenhausen and Riley Whitesides, who had four wins on one and10 on two.
  • Allen and Whitesides, and Coens and Mackenhausen will pair up for postseason play. It is the first time since 2017 that the team had three different pairings start in five or more games on court one in a single season.
  • In her win over No. 15 Georgia State on the final day of the regular season, Skylar Allen won her 70th career match on court one – 25 more than any Gamecock in program history. Taking just her wins on court one, Allen would rank seventh in program history. Her overall total of 84 puts her firmly in fourth place.
  • Of the 10 women who finished the regular season in the lineup and will play in the conference tournament, seven already have personal bests for wins in a single season.
  • Sophomores Morgan Downs and VB Trost have had the biggest year-to-year improvement on the roster. Downs did not make the starting lineup as a true freshman, but currently holds a 16-9 record and is second on the team in ranked wins (4). Trost made one start in 2023, but currently has a 12-8 record.
  • Fellow sophomore Jolie Cranford leads the team in overall wins (22) and ranked wins (5), both improvements from her CCSA All-Freshman season in 2023. Accounting for all Gamecocks who have played in 50 or more career matches, Cranford’s .678 winning percentage (40-19) ranks fouth in program history.


  • Florida State leads the all-time series with South Carolina, 23-0 (Since 2014). The Seminoles won the most recent meeting, 4-1, at home (March 24, 2024). 
  • The Seminoles enter the tournament as the number one overall seed, ranked fourth nationally. Brook Niles earns the CCSA Coach of the Year honor for the second time in three years after leading the program to a 27-7 season, with a program-best 13-0 record at home and 13 ranked wins.
  • Florida State made the semifinal round of last year’s NCAA Tournament. The Seminoles are three-time national runners-up.
  • Two FSU pairs made the CCSA’s all-conference team unanimously: Audrey Koeing and Raelyn White, and Alexis Durish and Anna Long.


  • GCU leads the all-time series with South Carolina, 4-2 (Since 2016). The Lopes won the most recent meeting, 3-2 (March 23, 2024).
  • GCU has certainly challenged itself this spring, playing 18 games against ranked opponents to date, but have only won one of the 18 entering postseason play.
  • The Lopes are 14-17 overall but come into the tournament ranked 17th nationally and are the number three seed.
  • In the CCSA’s postseason awards, Jessica Drake and Mackenzie Harris made the all-conference team after a solid spring in the 4th/5th pairing. The two currently hold a 23-8 record.
  • Karynn Garrow made the all-freshman team after picking up 16 wins this spring, playing across the top three positions of the lineup. 
  • 14 players on the roster that are either a sophomore or true freshman. The team is led by No. 1 pairing Krista Rowan and Sophia Hladyniuk. The team is under new leadership, with former assistant coach Abra Rummel elevated to the top position after the 2023 campaign.


  • LSU leads the all-time series with South Carolina, 17-2 (Since 2014). The Tigers won the most recent meeting, 4-1 (April 19, 2024).
  • The Tigers are 24-9 overall this spring and are ranked 10th in the national coaches poll. They are the number two seed and will face GCU in the first round on Friday.
  • The team has just one pair that has started in at least half its games to date, Reilly Allred and Parker Bracken on court two. They currently have a 22-9 mark together and were named the conference’s Pair of the Year on Tuesday. 
  • Yali Ashush and Emily Meyer are the reigning CCSA Pair of the Week, after going 4-0 on court five at the Gamecock Grand Slam. The duo have stabilized the lower part of the line, holding an overall record of 18-8 with ranked wins against California, LMU, Georgia State, South Carolina and Stetson.

The Coastal Collegiate Sports Association (CCSA) announced its annual postseason awards on Tuesday, April 23. South Carolina took home a number of individual honors as well as multiple members on the all-conference teams, as voted on by the conference’s coaches and sports information directors.

Headlining the honors were Skylar Allen and Julia Waugh. A graduate student in her first year of a doctoral program in coaching education, Allen earned the honor of CCSA Scholar-Athlete of the Year. First-year standout Waugh was the unanimous choice for CCSA Freshman of the Year; both her and Allen are the first Gamecocks to win either award since the team joined the conference in 2016. Allen holds a 4.0 GPA in her doctoral program, having already earned her undergraduate degree in exercise science in May 2023. On the sand, she is a two-time all-american who ranks fourth in program history for career wins. Of her 84 total victories, 70 have come in the number one pairing – 25 more than any other Gamecock in program history. The only thing to slow down Waugh’s impressive debut season was injury. After missing the team’s first two weeks due to injury, the York, S.C. native went on a tear and finished the regular season with a 16-6 overall record. She finished third on the team in ranked wins, with three, and moved from the fourth position all the way up to court two by season’s end.

South Carolina also added eight more honorees to the conference’s three teams – all-conference, all-freshman and all-academic. Allen and Allison Coens were one of five pairs selected to the All-Conference list, the two went 15-9 together win 10 of those wins coming in the top pairing. It is Coens’ first All-Conference honor and Allen’s second, having also made the team last spring with partner Simone Priebe. Waugh made the all-freshman team as a unanimous selection, and four Gamecocks – Allen, Coens Jolie Cranford and Hannah Mackenhausen – made the all-academic team. Waugh marks the third year in a row a Gamecock made the five-woman all-freshman team, and it is also the third year in a row with South Carolina leading the conference with four all-academic honorees.

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. This spring, the odds have decidedly not been in South Carolina’s favor.

Entering this postseason, the Gamecocks are 3-7 in duals decided by a 3-2 margin, to make matters worse, five of those seven losses came against nationally ranked opponents. There were 15 three-set matches played over the 10 duals decided by the 3-2 margin. South Carolina’s record in those three-set matches was 7-8. Diving in deeper, 33 of the 115 total sets played in those 10 duals were decided by the minimum two points and South Carolina lost 21 of the 33.

The Gamecocks enter the week unranked 20th in the AVCA coaches top-20 poll. 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. The team made it back into the rankings on April 16, following a weekend of wins over FGCU and No. 16 Stetson, but are the first team out in the April 23 poll.

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 in 2024, 11 came against ranked teams and the Gamecocks faced all six teams currently 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. 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 (currently at .654). 

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) and 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 (136 career starts), Mackenhausen (127) and Coens (105), the remaining Gamecocks with the most matches played are Kennedy Westendorff (29) and Cranford (59). Out of the 19 women on the roster, 10 have started in 25 or fewer matches at the collegiate level.

The search for production has been thorough; following Westendorff’s season debut on April 7, 17 of the 19 women on the roster have made at least one start so far this season.

With junior Kristen Schenck earning her first career collegiate victory in the dual with Morehead State on April 7, she became the eighth Gamecock to earn their first win with South Carolina so far this spring.

The Gamecocks have four true freshmen on the roster, with three seeing time in the lineup entering the weekend. Julia Waugh (York, S.C.) made her debut on March 10 after a preseason injury slowed her progress, but has been one of the brightest spots in the lineup since her addition. She holds a 16-6 overall record, with five of her six total losses coming to ranked opponents.

Abigail Lagemann (Benton, Ark.) has 12 total starts, spanning courts two, three, four and five. Evie Ziffer (Dallas, Ga.) has five starts, including three in the opening weekend of the season, before nagging injuries pushed her out of the rotation. She also holds a 4-0 mark in matches played at the exhibition pairing.

The team has tinkered with its lineup throughout the spring. Currently, seven different Gamecocks have played in three or more positions in the lineup, highlighted by Peyton Yamagata playing at least one match on courts one through five and Jolie Cranford playing two through four. There have been four different pairs on court one, seven on court two, seven on court three, 12 on court four and 10 on court five.

Entering postseason play, the Gamecocks are 18-25 in three-set matches and have a 36-48 record in deuce sets (sets decided by the minimum of two points). The 25 three-set losses is the second-most in a single season in program history and the team’s .419 win percentage in three-set matches is the lowest in a full season in program history.

By comparison, in 2023, South Carolina was 5-4 in duals that had a 3-2 final score, had a 32-31 record in “deuce” sets 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. 

Entering this weekend, the two have combined to make 36 starts – 30 for Yamagata and six for Nichols.

There are 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 last 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. This year her skills fully blossomed; she and partner Hannah Mackenhausen are tied for the team lead with 15 wins so far this spring, including four wins coming in the number one position. She holds an overall record of 18-13, with seven wins on the top court.

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.


  • South Carolina holds a 191-120 (.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 46-40 (.541).
  • In matches at Wheeler Beach, Carolina is 89-30 (.765), including a 19-9 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).