After four seasons as a setter on the indoor volleyball team, senior Courtney Weber decided she wasn’t quite ready to throw in the towel. She is continuing to play volleyball for one more semester, but this time it’s in the sand and with the South Carolina beach volleyball team.
Weber ended her indoor volleyball chapter this past fall, where the Gamecocks reached the NCAA tournament for the tenth time in program history. After losing to No. 17 Western Kentucky, she was left wondering what was next for her.
Weber said she reached out to the beach volleyball head coach, Moritz Moritz, towards the end of 2021 about the possibility of joining the team. As she finalizes her degree this spring, Weber said she wanted to stay active and experience something new.
“They say I need to get my ‘sand-legs,’” Weber said. “Everyone’s been really patient with me, explaining all the drills and techniques, and I’m just taking it one day at a time.”
Weber explained how the timing, ball control and cues are all different in beach volleyball. In addition to the technical aspect of the game, playing in the sand is physically demanding. It is more endurance-based and involves different strategies than what she said she's used to.
“She’s picking up on it, again, very quickly,” Moritz said. “We’re excited to have her in the sand.”
Despite the tough transition, the team has made it a worthwhile experience for her. She explained how she has received nothing but support and positivity from her new teammates and staff.
“No one takes any off days mentally or physically,” Weber said. “It’s a family and that's been an amazing transition to this culture.”
Like Weber, graduate student Nicole Deobler is another new addition to the beach volleyball team. Deobler played indoor volleyball at Siena College before coming to South Carolina to finish out her remaining year of eligibility. Deobler and Weber have had to make the transition together and said they have loved every minute of it.
“It’s been honestly incredible,” Deobler said. “You can ask anyone on the team how much of a light and how encouraging and positive (Weber) is.”
Alongside playing volleyball, Weber has had to balance her work in the classroom. As a chemistry major, she said she has experienced conflicts with classes and rushing from labs to practice in the evening. Despite juggling both, she said she has been able to achieve academic goals she set for herself with the help of her professors and coaches.
Despite an already packed schedule, Weber still finds time to fulfill her passion for serving her community. She said she has been involved with community service since high school and wanted to carry that into college. After a few upperclassmen on the indoor volleyball team graduated, she took over the role of leading community service events her junior and senior years. Her work with community outreach landed her on the 2020-21 and 2021 SEC Community Service Team.
“It was good having leaders to, kind of, inspire that passion,” Weber said. “You can do sports and still serve at the same time.”
As Weber continues to learn and grow closer with the team, Moritz is pleased with how she is transitioning. He knows with time, he can help Weber develop as a beach volleyball player.
"Continuing to develop familiarity with the game,” Moritz said. “I think she brings a lot of things to this team. She’s got height, she’s a good blocker, but a lot of it too will just kind of come with more experience.”
When the beach volleyball program first started in 2014, Moritz explained that they were very dependent on cross-over players like Weber. Recently, they have been able to grow the program and recruit exclusively beach players but still accept one or two indoor players each year.
“It’s a good relationship we have with the indoor program,” Moritz said. “We recruit very similar players so it’s always good for us be able to have access to those athletes.”
As the beach volleyball season closes in, Weber said the team is eager to extend their season into NCAA tournament play. The NCAA Tournament expanded its pool this year to 16 teams instead of eight and this has inspired the student-athletes to make it a goal of theirs to make the postseason this year. Despite having a lot of goals and expectations, Weber said the team plans to take it one game at a time.
Looking ahead, Weber said she wants to continue to pursue academics. She applied and was accepted to the University of South Carolina P.h.D and Chemistry program. She also is in the process of applying for the same program at Duke University.
“Every option is great,” Weber said. “I just know that I want to continue with my education and passion for science.”