As Gamecock beach volleyball heads into the start of its 2023 season, the team plans to focus on building connections and creating a supportive family to help players thrive.
After finishing 20-12 in the 2022 season and missing out on a trip to the national championship, South Carolina welcomed nine new faces to its team for the 2023 season. Five freshmen, three transfers and junior Riley Whitesides from the indoor volleyball scene helped complete the team's family dynamic and also solidified the need for an emphasis on community.
Seniors, such as team captain Peyton Gray, are focused on support and inclusiveness within the team in order to succeed in the sand.
“Our main thing is being a team, being a family, so we’ve been making a big effort to hang out with one another outside of practice,” Gray said. “We can perform all we want on the beach during practice time, but at the end of the day, connection is a big factor into who's winning (and) what programs are succeeding.”
Friendships beyond the beach have helped make Gamecock beach volleyball into the team it is today under the leadership of head coach Mortiz Mortiz.
“For us, we recruit to chemistry. We recruit to culture," Moritz said. "Everybody we bring in (and) everybody we talk to is basically somebody that will find a way to integrate their style of leadership, their style of competitiveness, into this group and, in the long hall, create a family.”
VB Trost is among the freshmen joining the Gamecock family this spring and said a strong support system has made the transition to college easier.
“I think the biggest adjustment and preparation is bringing into a family atmosphere. Even in our team meeting we had right before this, we were talking about the girls picking up each other and that accountability,” Trost said. "I think that's really helped all the newcomers come into that family. It doesn't feel like there is division between the grades.”
Trost has set large goals for herself and her team to go all the way to the CCSA Conference Tournament in Alabama this year.
"I'm most excited to see everyone compete in the close games where we are screaming and cheering everyone on," Trost said. "Just getting those wins when it is super close. Also when we go to Gulf Shores, I'm so excited because I know we are going to get there because I have very high expectations."
Gray said she hopes to continue the close dynamic throughout the season in order to this year successful.
“I bet it has been an easier transition just coming to a team that has already been like a family," Gray said. "We reach out to them instead of them feeling like outsiders. We instantly bring them in our arms and teach them, we are not letting them go behind the scenes.”
The Gamecock beach volleyball team starts its season on Feb. 25 against California Polytechnic State University in Tallahassee, Florida.