After another record-breaking year, Gamecocks prepare for postseason

After another record-breaking year, Gamecocks prepare for postseason

Another year of the South Carolina beach volleyball program, another wins record set.

In the first year of their existence in 2014, the Gamecocks won five matches. Year No. 2 brought 14 wins and last season that total was upped to 20 victories.

With a win over College of Charleston on April 15, South Carolina won its 21st match of the season, a new team record.

"It really is a testament to the players themselves," head coach Moritz Moritz said. "It's a testament to how hard they work to get better at beach volleyball, to get better as teammates and really push each other to get better at every capacity."

With another successful regular season in the books, South Carolina now prepares for the Coastal Collegiate Sports Association (CCSA) conference tournament that starts on Friday. The tournament features pool play with two groups of five teams. 

Over the course of Friday and Saturday, the Gamecocks will play Florida International, UNC Wilmington, Florida State and Tulane once each, and the winner of that group will advance to the championship on Sunday. 

It's a difficult weekend, but Moritz has confidence in his team. The Gamecocks have defeated every team except Florida State in their bracket at some point this season. 

"It's just about us going one-by-one and taking care of business against FIU first and foremost," Moritz said. "We're excited."

One of the biggest reasons for South Carolina's success this season has been contributions from nearly everyone on the roster. There are 10 individuals who have at least 19 wins on the year and six dual pairs that have at least 10. 

"That competitive aspect is awesome," Moritz said. "It's always neat to kind of mix and match a little bit without tweaking it too much because you want to keep a little bit of chemistry as well. But they're flexible and they're competitive and they're also really talented players."

Macie Tendrich leads the Gamecocks with 24 individual wins, but Shannon Williams is close behind with 23. The duo of Carly Schnieder and Julia Mannisto have 20 wins together to lead South Carolina. However, Katie Smith and Adrianna Culbert have played exceptionally well at the No. 1 dual spot, winning 10 of 12 matches. 

Both Smith and Culbert are newcomers to the team. Smith is a freshman while Culbert is a graduate transfer from Colorado State, where she was a star indoor volleyball player. There are two other graduate transfers, Katie Zimmerman and Hannah Sorensen, as well as six other freshmen who are contributing to the team as well.

All of that new experience, combined with veterans like Mannisto, Tendrich and Jade Vitt, have given Moritz a nice combination to work with during this historic year.

"You go top to bottom with our roster, we have five players that didn't have beach volleyball experience," Moritz said. "Four of them are freshmen and one of them obviously had a pretty decorated career on the indoor side. That's the kind of neat thing about this team is that everyone is competing and pushing each other to get better and better."

**Story by Kyle Heck/photo by Allen Sharpe**