April 21, 2017
EMERSON, GA. - The South Carolina beach volleyball team began pool play on Friday, the first day of the Coastal Collegiate Sports Association's postseason tournament. The Gamecocks (23-7) picked up important wins over No. 10 FIU and UNC-Wilmington to put themselves in good position heading into Saturday's duals.
In the morning session, Carolina was faced with a red-hot FIU quintet that had won two matches against ranked opponents in the previous weekend and shot past the Gamecocks in the AVCA Top-15 poll on Monday. In this, the third meeting between the two squads this year, it was a battle from start to finish with all five pairs in action simultaneously.
South Carolina earned the early lead after sweeps from Katie Zimmerman and Macie Tendrich in the threes and Adrianna Culbert and Katie Smith in the ones made it 2-0. The Panthers clawed back with sweeps at the four and five pairings, and forced a third set on the final court -- the twos pair.
Shannon Williams and Ali Denney won the first set 21-17 before losing 21-16 to force a final set to 15 to decide the match. The two Gamecocks battled to a 5-5 start to the third, then put their foot on the gas with a 5-0 run to take a commanding lead. An ace from Denney sealed the 15-9 win and a 3-2 victory for South Carolina, its fifth win over a nationally ranked opponent this season.
The team needed to battle even harder to close the day undefeated with a win against UNC-Wilmington, as the heat and sun developed into an extra opponent in the afternoon. The Seahawks took the first set at the twos and fives, and soon after put even more pressure on Carolina by forcing a third set with the top pairing.
Sweeps by Zimmerman and Tendrich at the threes and Carly Schnieder and Julia Mannisto at the fours gave the team an early lead, but a win by the UNCW twos tightened it back up a 2-1 with third sets starting at the ones and fives spot to decide the match.
Culbert and Smith fought back from a second set loss to win 15-5 at the top flight and clinch the overall team win. Franky Harrison and Jade Vitt used up all the gas in their tanks, but overcame a first-set loss to win in three as well for the 4-1 final.
QUOTABLE: HEAD COACH Moritz Moritz
On the important win over No. 10 FIU
The team has two more matches in pool play, taking on the top seed Florida State tomorrow at 9:30 a.m. and Tulane at 1:30. After all the pool matches wrap up, the top two records from Pool A and Pool B will be entered into the Sunday championship bracket. South Carolina is currently tied for the pool lead with Florida State, both teams are 2-0.
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