March 2, 2018
UNF BEACH INVITATIONAL
ST. AUGUSTINE, FLA. - The South Carolina beach team returns to the coast of Florida for week two of the 2018 season, taking part in the UNF Beach Invitational in St. Augustine on Saturday and Sunday. The tournament will feature rematches with nationally ranked rivals Georgia State and FAU, a conference showdown with UNC Wilmington and a Sunday afternoon dual with the host Ospreys. The Gamecocks went 3-1 in their first weekend of the spring, and are ranked ninth in the country.
The Seahawks are receiving votes in the first regular season AVCA poll, but will face their first matches of the season at the UNF tournament. The team’s top returner is Nicole Lott, who won 13 matches last season in the team’s top pairing but will need to connect with a new partner after the departure of Tanna Aljoe. Some candidates to step in the lineup would be Katie McCullough, who was 11-9 in the twos pair in 2017, and Sarah Kelly, who led the team with 18 wins last year (7-5 in the threes, 9-3 in the fours). UNCW ended the 2017 season with a 13-13 overall record.
SCOUTING #13 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 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. Georgia State is No. 17 in the country and went 2-2 in its opening weekend at the Stetson Spring Fling, losing to Carolina and Florida State but beating Stetson and Eckerd.
SCOUTING #17 FAU
The Owls are 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. The Owls are 1-3 coming into the weekend, with two losses at the Stetson Spring Fling and a 3-2 loss to FIU on Tuesday.
SCOUTING NORTH FLORIDA
The host Osprey are 3-0 after the first weekend with first-year head coach Kristen Wright. The team had two players make the ASUN’s preseason all-conference team; juniors Courtney Miller and Chaney Howard. Miller went 3-0 in the team’s opening weekend at the twos pair, coming off a 2017 season where she led the team with 17 wins and was first team All-ASUN. Howard won 12 matches in the middle of the team’s lineup last season, but went just 1-2 in the team’s first tournament. North Florida had a relatively young lineup take to the sand last weekend, with six of the 10 participants in either their first or second season.
SOPHOMORE TRIO NAMED ON CCSA PRESEASON LIST
The CCSA announced its preseason honors on Feb. 22, 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.
SPRING FLING NOTABLES
The Gamecocks entered Friday with an 0-6 record all-time versus Georgia State. The sweep of the Panthers was the program’s second 5-0 win over a ranked opponent in its five-year history.
Lydia Dimke was injured against Georgia State, forcing her to miss the rest of the weekend. Jess Vastine moved into the lineup to pair at the 4s with Julia Mannisto for her first career start.
The Gamecocks entered Saturday with an 0-3 record all-time versus Stetson. All four matches between the two schools have been a 3-2 decision.
The win over the Hatters is also South Carolina’s first-ever true road win over a ranked opponent.
After just one win over a nationally ranked opponent in the program’s first three seasons, the Gamecocks now have seven in less than a calendar year.
GAMECOCKS IN THE NATIONAL RANKS
The team earned its first-ever ranking by the AVCA on March 6 of last season, and went as high at No. 8 by the end of the spring. Heading into the 2018 season, the Gamecocks were ranked eighth by the AVCA, and moved back to ninth in the first poll of the regular season despite three wins over teams ranked 16th or higher in the poll.
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 early this season has been Hannah Edelman, who paired up with Harrison at the Stetson Spring Fling and went 3-1 at the fives pair.
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 entered 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 65-47 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 18-11.
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.