Beach Volleyball Announces 2017 Schedule

COLUMBIA, S.C. (USC SID) – With the South Carolina beach volleyball program approaching the start of its fourth season, the Gamecocks announced the 2017 schedule Wednesday afternoon. The team will play in seven regular-season tournaments – hosting three – and will begin the season on March 4 in St. Augustine, Fla.

“One of the things we always want to do is play the best competition we can, and represent the southeast as best we can,” said head coach Moritz Moritz. “At the end of the day, it’s taking each dual for what it is – preparing and competing to the best of our ability and making the most out of each opportunity.”

The Gamecocks have raised the stakes in year four, lining up seven regular season tournaments that will cover 29 duals. Of those, six duals are against opponents who finished in the American Volleyball Coaches Association’s national top-10 poll in 2016 and 14 against teams that were ranked in the DiG Magazine final top-20 poll. The highlight for the year will no doubt be the Gamecock Grand Slam on March 25-26, where Carolina hosts the defending national champion Southern California, national runner-up Florida State, and Georgia State and Stetson, who ended 2016 ranked eighth and ninth nationally by the AVCA, respectively.

“It’s exciting, we’re always happy to showcase our program and our facility,” Moritz said about the Grand Slam. “We want to create a program where our athletes step up to any and every challenge and measure themselves against the best in the country. This tournament is going to be stacked, but so will a lot of the tournaments we’ll play in this season. To have all four of our opponents for that weekend be top-ten programs is a tremendous testament to what we can bring here to Columbia and raise our level.”

After opening the regular season March 4-5 in a tournament hosted by North Florida, South Carolina will open its home season at Wheeler Beach with the Gamecock Challenge March 11-12. It will then hold a midweek dual against Coastal Carolina on March 14 at 6 p.m., and closes out the home schedule with the Grand Slam two weeks later and the Palmetto Invitational on April 14-15. The team will play at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. ET on each day of home tournaments.

South Carolina’s 2017 slate will feature a number of brewing rivalries thanks to an expanded conference footprint. The Coastal Collegiate Sports Association added two more programs this past fall, welcoming College of Charleston and UNC-Wilmington to push the conference up to 10 teams. The Gamecocks finished 5-5 in CCSA matches during the 2016 regular season, and made the semifinal round of the conference’s first-ever postseason tournament. Carolina will play 17 conference matches in 2017, six coming at home.

“It’s great to have UNCW and College of Charleston in our conference this season, both are great programs who we’ve scrapped with a lot over the last few seasons,” Moritz said. “We take a lot of pride in competing for our conference and we look forward to continuing to build it up.”

Rounding out the schedule are four road events. Following the season opener in St. Augustine, the team will also travel to LSU (March 18-19), UNC-Wilmington (April 1-2) and Florida State (April 7-8) for weekend tournaments. The Gamecocks will end the year with the CCSA Tournament in Emerson, Ga. from April 21-23, followed by the second year of the NCAA championship in Gulf Shores, Ala., May 5-7.

The Gamecocks return seven women who were key starters in the top five pairs. All seven won 10 or more dual matches, and six won at least 15 matches. Among those returning are Macie Tendrich and Katie Zimmerman, who paired up for 26 wins between the number two and three pairs. The 26 wins are a new single-season record for a pair.

Entering the fold this season are nine newcomers hailing from seven different states. Seven are freshmen, while two join the program as graduate transfers – Adrianna Culbert (from Colorado State’s indoor program) and Hannah Sorensen (from the Mercer beach program).

For more information on the team leading up to the start of the season, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.

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