Feb. 22, 2018
STETSON SPRING FLING
DELAND, FLA. - The beach volleyball team begins its 2018 campaign at the Stetson Spring Fling, running over two days from Feb. 23-24. The Gamecocks are coming off a stellar season in 2017, with a program-record 23 wins and their first NCAA tournament berth. Standing in the way this opening weekend are four teams ranked in the AVCA Top-20 preseason poll, a poll that put South Carolina eighth overall.
SCOUTING #12 GEORGIA STATE
The Panthers were hit hard by graduation, but still enter 2018 as a contender for the CCSA title and finished 2017 ranked 11th in the country by the AVCA. The team lost four individuals who won 20 or more matches in 2017, led by All-Americans Chelsea Ross and Delaney Rohan (24-10 as the 1s pair). Also graduating were Jessica Fourspring and Haley Pa’akaula, who went 21-14 and 22-11, respectively, as individuals and 10-2 together as the 2s pair. GSU added three graduate transfers to alleviate the losses, with Annika and Teegan Van Gunst coming from Georgia Tech and Tiffany Creamer transferring in from Stetson. The Van Gunst sisters were indoor athletes, but Creamer held a 42-19 career record with the Hatters’ beach program. They will bolster a strong sophomore class for Georgia State, led by Georgia Johnson (21-8 record as a freshman) and Olivia Stasevich (18-9). The pair made the CCSA All-Tournament team last spring.
SCOUTING #4 FLORIDA STATE
Florida State went 29-9 and made the quarterfinals of the 2017 NCAA tournament, and will have another stacked lineup this season. The Seminoles return all but two of their main contributors from last season, with seven of their returners winning 20 or more matches in 2017. Vanessa Freire leads the returners, going 28-7 out of the 2s pair. Sophomore Francesca Goncalves was named CCSA Freshman of the Year after winning 29 matches (12 in the 2s, 13 in the 4s), Tori Paranagua led the team with 30 wins, 12 in the 2s pair and 17 in the 3s, and Brooke Kuhlman earned AVCA All-American honors after winning 17 matches in the 1s pair with Leigh Andrew. The Seminoles are also the defending CCSA champions, winning both tournaments in the conference’s existence.
SCOUTING #15 STETSON
Stetson is the defending Atlantic Sun Conference champion, and finished 2017 with a 20-13 record and the No. 15 spot in the AVCA postseason poll. The Hatters are relatively young, with no seniors and ten underclassmen on the roster, but bring back 20-game winners Darby Dunn and Rachel Noble and added key transfers Samme Thomas from Long Beach State and Katinka Krahn, a Norweigian native who was an accomplished indoor and beach athlete from UBC-Okanagan in Canada. The team hopes the talented newcomers will offeset the loss the two winningest athletes in program history (Kristin Lind and Kaylee Anderson), and Tiffany Creamer, who transferred to Georgia State.
SCOUTING #16 FAU
The Owls are another team looking to build off a record year in 2017. FAU won 21 matches, including a streak of 18 in a row, and finished the season ranked 14th by the AVCA. Many of the key contributors to that success return to the sand for this season, led by Jessalyn Kinlaw. She teamed with Megan Rice to win 23 matches out of the 1s pairing in 2017, earning them a spot in the USAV National Pairs Championship. The team also returns its main 2s, 3s and 4s pairs completely intact, which included 20-game winners Nicole Grant, Nicole Navarro, Gabby Dischler and Candace Lacour. A newcomer to watch for the Owls will be Amanda Silva, who competed for the U19 Brazilian National Team, won Brazil’s U21 national championship, and comes to the program after playing indoor for St. Petersburg Junior College.
SOPHOMORE TRIO NAMED ON CCSA PRESEASON LIST
The CCSA announced its preseason honors on Thursday, with three Gamecocks making the cut. Sophomore Katie Smith made the ten-woman All-Conference team, Ali Denney made the watch list, and Franky Harrison won the Fan-Voted Preseason Player of the Year award. Smith won 22 matches last year between the team’s top two pairs, and made the CCSA All-Freshman Team. Denney and Harrison also were 22-match winners, and Denney joined Smith on the All-Freshman list.
The Gamecocks return seven players who were mainstays in the top five pairs last season. All seven returners won 20 or more dual matches, led by senior Macie Tendrich’s program-record 27 wins. Just six players won 20 or more matches in the program’s first three seasons combined.
2018 will be the final season for four-year starters Julia Mannisto and Macie Tendrich. Tendrich is already the program’s all-time wins leader, and Mannisto currently ranks third for career wins.
Entering the fold this season are nine newcomers - four true freshmen, three indoor graduate transfers and two crossover student-athletes from the indoor volleyball program.
GAMECOCKS IN THE NATIONAL RANKS
The junior is the first Gamecock to crack the top 10 for career aces since 2002, as her 134 aces put her sixth in program history. So far this season, she has 12 matches with two or more aces, and she is one away from matching her personal best for a season and four away from tying the record for most aces by a junior in the rally-scoring era. Currently, the Granbury, Texas native leads the SEC with her 46 aces, and ranks 31st nationally with 0.43 per set.
BATTLE-TESTED SOPHOMORE CLASS KEY to 2018 SUCCESS
The 2017 freshman class might very well go down as one of the best in school history, as four first-year student-athletes made the starting lineup and all four - Ali Denney (#30), Franky Harrison (#33), Carly Schnieder (#23) and Katie Smith (#50) won over 20 dual matches as individuals. Denney and Smith were named to the CCSA All-Freshman team, and Smith, Schnieder and Harrison joined with Denney to match South Carolina’s freshman record for wins in a season, with 22. In the summer, Smith and her partner Adrianna Culbert earned a bid to the USA Volleyball Collegiate Beach Championships, where they advanced out of pool play. Adding to the group are high school indoor volleyball converts Hannah Edelman and Caroline Skaff, who developed throughout the 2017 as the team’s top exhibition pair and could challenge for expanded roles as sophomores.
TENDRICH MEDALS AT MACCABIAH GAMES
South Carolina beach volleyball senior Macie Tendrich had the chance to represent her country and also strengthen her faith and understanding of competition while earning a bronze medal at the Maccabiah Games in Israel over the summer. Similar to the Olympics, the Maccabiah Games are held once every four years and are made up of athletes of the Jewish faith from all around the world. Tendrich competed alongside Samantha Lemmon, who is now a freshman at Florida International University, during the six day tournament in July. After advancing out of pool play, the pair knocked off an Israeli team to earn bronze for the United States.
GRAD CHANCE U
South Carolina welcomed its first grad transfer in 2015, when Jade Hayes came to Columbia from UCF. Last season, former indoor All-Americans Katie Zimmerman (Wichita State) and Adrianna Culbert (Colorado State) were vital pieces to the team’s NCAA Tournament run. The three left South Carolina with a combined record of 90-45 in dual matches while competing on the team’s top pairs.
This season, a new group of indoor standouts will have a chance to leave their mark on the program. Leah Perri (Clemson) trained with the team in the fall after a career with the Tigers saw her make All-ACC teams twice. Cadie Bates (Duke) is coming off a career year with the Blue Devils this fall, and played in 83 career matches indoors. Lydia Dimke (Creighton) was a 2016 AVCA All-American for the Blue Jays, and led the team to the Elite Eight of the 2016 NCAA tournament and the No. 9 overall seed in the tournament this past season.
CHALLENGING SCHEDULE AWAITS GAMECOCKS IN 2018
South Carolina will have its hands full this spring. The Gamecocks schedule includes matches against five of the seven other teams who made the 2017 national tournament field, and face 12 teams that enter the 2018 season in the American Volleyball Coaches Association’s preseason Top-20 poll. Added to that are 13 matches against Coastal Collegiate Sports Association rivals as the Gamecocks enter year three with the conference.
“There’s no question that this is a challenging schedule, but we know that we need to compete against the best teams in the country to reach our ultimate goal of making it back to the NCAA tournament,” said head coach Moritz Moritz. “We’re going to do what we’ve done since day one – take this season point-by-point and match-by-match and trust one another to get back to where we want to be.”
EZELL RETURNS TO THE SAND IN 2018
One of the biggest additions to the team this season might be Aubrey Ezell, who returns to the roster after spending the 2017 season training with the indoor volleyball program. Ezell came to Columbia as a cross-over athlete, earning SEC All-Freshman honors as the indoor team’s setter in fall 2015 and then coming out and winning 22 matches for the beach team. She played mostly in the 2s, winning 17 matches there, and was in a top-three pair for all 36 of the team’s duals. Her 22 wins rank eighth in a single season in program history and are tied for the most by a South Carolina freshman.
South Carolina holds a 62-46 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 16-10.
In home matches at Wheeler Beach, Carolina is 31-12 (.721).
Moritz Moritz is entering his fifth season as head coach of the Gamecocks, spanning the young history of the program. He earned his 50th career win against UAB on March 19, 2017.