Gamecocks’ volleyball to open NCAA tournament in Twin Cities

Photo provided by USC.

There was nary an inkling by the University of South Carolina volleyball as to where they would play the program’s first NCAA tournament match in 16 years.

Junior middle blocker Claire Edwards of River Bluff High School did express a preference prior to the selection show party at the Champions Room in Williams-Brice Stadium.

“Hopefully, somewhere cold so we can get a new jacket,” she said.

The NCAA granted her wish. After nearly 15 minutes, the Gamecocks learned they would indeed have to pack up and prepare for the cold of the Twin Cities for their first-round contest against Colorado.

South Carolina will compete in the bracket led by Big Ten champion and second overall seed Minnesota. The Gamecocks (19-9) will open play Thursday or Friday against the University of Colorado (18-13).

“I thought it was a good seed,” first-year South Carolina volleyball coach Tom Mendoza said. “I’ve had a chance to see them play a couple of times this year. They’re really solid. They’ve had some good wins.”

Should the Gamecocks defeat the Buffaloes, they would face either the Gophers (25-3) or Bryant University (22-12).

“The goal was always to get to the NCAA tournament and progress as far as we could,” Edwards said. “I think the new coaching staff really helped a lot. They pushed us in ways that we’ve never been pushed before and I think it gave kind of an even better mindset to complete our goal.”

Mendoza led the Gamecocks to a fifth place finish in the Southeastern Conference. Following the announcement on ESPNU, he praised his upperclassmen for helping to make the coaching transition successful.

One of those juniors, Brittany McLean, a native of Rosemount, Minn., will be making her Homecoming this week.

“As far as the season as a whole, they handled it so well,” Mendoza said. “A lot of it comes down to those juniors and seniors and the leadership and how much it meant for them to make South Carolina volleyball a success.”

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