Gamecock Volleyball Earns NCAA Tournament Bid, Will Play in Washington Regional
COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina volleyball will be returning to the postseason, as it was announced Sunday night that the Gamecocks will head west to take on Colorado State on Friday, Dec. 6 in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The first two rounds will be hosted by the University of Washington, which is the number eight seed overall in the country. This is the second consecutive trip to the tournament for the team, the first time going in back-to-back seasons since 2002.
“I’m incredibly thrilled for our group, it’s a group that likes to come into the gym every day and get to spend time together so the fact that we get an extra week that they earned is incredibly rewarding and what we set out at the beginning of the year to try to accomplish,” head coach Tom Mendoza said. “I’m thrilled especially for our upperclassmen and seniors who have built this program so much, and for them to get a chance to keep going and make the NCAA tournament and put another banner in the gym, I think those are things we’re all pretty excited about right now.”
The program broke its 16-year postseason drought last season with a bid and made it to the second round before losing to regional host Minnesota. The Gamecocks are 5-8 all-time in the national tournament, advancing to the second round in five of eight trips.
Colorado State is 29-1 overall and won the Mountain West Conference with a perfect 18-0 record. The Rams entered the week ranked No. 11 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association’s top-25 coaches poll. The match will feature a South Carolina tie-in, as current CSU assistant coach Adrianna Culbert played beach volleyball at South Carolina and also served on the indoor coaching staff during the 2017 season. Senior Katie Oleksak won her third conference player of the year honor, she is one of four members of the program to earn all-conference honors in the postseason.
Region host Washington is 24-6 overall and finished 15-5 in the Pac-12 this season, checking in at No. 9 in the latest AVCA top-25 poll. The Huskies are powered by senior left-side hitter Kara Bajema, who averages 4.46 kills per set. The Gamecocks won’t be the only Palmetto State representative in Seattle, as Big South champion Winthrop will also head west for the Washington Regional. The Eagles are back in the tournament for the first time since 2006 and also have a Gamecock tie-in, as 2018 graduate Courtney Furlong serves on the coaching staff for Winthrop.