Sand volleyball drops CofC, finishes inaugural season 5-12
The ball splashed into the sand, and junior Paige Wheeler and sophomore Sarah Blomgren faced each other, bear-hugging in the middle of the court.
As they screamed, they were greeted by their teammates storming the beach and dog-piling them, celebrating the sand volleyball team’s 3-2 victory over College of Charleston.
Wheeler and Blomgren came back to force a third-set tiebreaker after dropping the first set. The two then won 16-14 in the third set, clinching their match and securing a team victory for the Gamecocks.
The win came as the sun was setting over the courts as well as the Gamecocks’ inaugural season; Tuesday’s match was the last of the season.
“I am beyond happy with the way we ended,” sophomore Jordan Loney said. “I wish we all could have gotten wins, but to end on a win against Charleston, who we lost to twice already, Megan and I felt we flowed well. It just makes me want to work harder this summer.”
Loney and her partner, senior Megan Kent, won their match in straight sets, sweeping the Cougars 21-15 and 21-18, to tie the overall match at 2-2.
“Megan and I didn’t feel any pressure at all,” Loney said. “We just told each other to go out and play like we play, play like ourselves and don’t get distracted by the things around us. We decided to focus on one point at a time and not the win at the end.”
After Loney and Kent tied the match at two, it came down to Wheeler and Blomgren’s tiebreaker.
The pair jumped out to a quick lead but saw a resurgent Cougar pair that quickly came back to tie the set at 12.
Wheeler and Blomgren then scored four of the last six points to clinch the match and seal the victory for the Gamecocks.
Head coach Moritz Moritz said that during the tiebreaker he wasn’t trying to think about it, that he trusted his players.
“One of the fortunate things we do as coaches in this sport is put the girls in a position where they are accustomed to those situations,” Moritz said. “We want to meddle too much. RJ (Abella) and I had a conversation on the side and said, ‘Hey, they’re doing exactly what we want them to do. Sure, there’s going to be mistakes,’ but they executed and finished strong.”
After losing two close games earlier this season against LSU and Louisiana-Monroe, Moritz said he is glad that the team was on the right side of a close match.
“All season long, we’ve been on the cusp where I think if we just had one ball here and there go our way, maybe we pull out a match,” Moritz said. “LSU is a great example. We want to be in that position in third game where it’s on the line. That’s where the competitors come out, and they did today.”
South Carolina ended its season on a rainy night in Columbia and said that the rain had no effect on the players. Loney said that in one practice, they played in all four seasons. She said that the team played in the “apocalypse” and that they’re “not too worried about it.”
Rain, sleet or shine, the Gamecocks closed out their inaugural season at 5-12 overall and 3-2 at home. After the last home win, Loney said that she and her teammates were “going to have a smile on our face all week.”
“In a nutshell it was history,” Loney said. “I can’t wait to tell my kids and show them my jersey and say that this was the first team ever. We got little things started here and there, and it meant the world to be a part of it.”