Gamecocks go 2-2 at inaugural home tournament
More than 1,000 fans looked on as the sun set behind them and the sand sprayed up as the ball hit the ground, clinching the game and giving the South Carolina sand volleyball team their first ever home win.
The team stormed the sand, hugging each other and celebrating the historic victory while the crowd erupted behind them.
“I can’t even describe it. We’ve played and we’ve won, but nothing can compare to winning at home for the first time,” senior Megan Kent said. “Paige [Wheeler] and I were talking about how it’s going to go down in history. It’s unbelievable and it’s like nothing I’ve experienced in my life.”
The Gamecocks cruised to a 4-1 victory over the Oregon Ducks Friday night, with each victory coming in straight sets. Wheeler and Kent won their match Friday 21-11, 21-18, beating 6-foot-four-inch Canace Finley and 5-foot-7-inch Amanda Benson.
Facing such a size disadvantage, Kent said she and Wheeler played H.O.R.S.E. during practice to get used to hitting their shots.
A crowd of more than 1,000 people saw South Carolina’s first home match.
The attendance was a number even Mortiz said he couldn’t have predicted, citing the crowd as an important factor in helping the team win.
“We have our fans, our facilities — which are best in the country,” Moritz said. “Who can say anything more than that? This is home. We are going to take advantage of that.”
The Gamecocks also played three other games over the course of the weekend, taking on LSU, UAB and Louisiana-Monroe.
While falling short to Tigers and the Warhawks, South Carolina was able to beat the Blazers 3-2 on Saturday, giving the team an overall record of 4-6 in its inaugural season.
Moritz said playing stiff competition like the three teams that visited Columbia this weekend will benefit his team in the long run.
“It helps us to continue to have a better understanding for where we stand in relation to the other teams,” Moritz said. “Teams like UAB and ULM, they’ve been doing this for a couple years, so its good to know how to measure us to teams that are more established. We’re right there, and that’s encouraging for us.”
The Gamecocks came up just short against the ULM Warhawks, losing 3-2. In the clinching game, Kent and Wheeler lost in a tiebreaker set.
After jumping out to a quick lead, Wheeler and Kent could not hold off the Warhawk offensive and fell behind 13-10. After a short rally, the duo couldn’t complete the comeback and lost the third set 15-12.
“Even when we are down, we still have an opportunity to win. Its just a matter of fine tuning that,” Moritz said. “Maybe a couple weeks from now, this experience is going to help us translate that into wins because we’ve been in that position.”
After starting the season 2-4, the team has gone 2-2 and looks to keep improving, especially in front of its enthusiastic home crowd.
“I’m happy with what we are able to build and really draw and how we were able to connect wit the fans,” Moritz said. “We probably could have won more but we’ve been really good with working each play to get better. That’s been the emphasis, regardless of the result: improvement.”