Post and Courier
March 11, 2012
The party started so splendidly.
The NCAA tournament-bound Cincinnati team that just stunned No. 2 Syracuse? Very same guys that lost to Presbyterian in November.
Coastal Carolina upset LSU.
Tennessee, on the Big Dance bubble with its strong finish, lost at the College of Charleston in December.
Then most of the Palmetto State’s NCAA tournament hopes went into a deep freeze unlike we have seen in these parts since 1995. That was the last year your bracket didn’t include a team from South Carolina.
At least there was some postseason excitement around here in 1995; College of Charleston and Clemson made it to the NIT.
Where have you gone, Iker Iturbe?
What a run, the NCAA fun from 1996-2011. Highlights included the Cougars toppling Maryland in Memphis, Clemson’s Sweet 16 trip to San Antonio, South Carolina’s SEC regular season title and Gregg Marshall’s Winthrop dynasty.
S.C. State made four — count ’em, four — NCAA tournament appearances during that stretch. The Tigers and Cougars played on the same Friday afternoon in the same Chicago regional. Wofford nearly upset Wisconsin in Jacksonville.
This year, yikes. We had to pin postseason hopes on the upstart USC-Upstate Spartans. Their No. 139 Ratings Percentage Index mark stands as second-best in the state behind No. 122 College of Charleston.
Post and Courier
March 9, 2012
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - In its Southern Conference opener, the College of Charleston women's tennis team handed Samford its first home loss of the season, 6-1, Thursday at the Samford Tennis Center.
The defending champion Cougars (5-4, 1-0 SoCon) have now won 23 straight league regular-season matches after putting together two consecutive undefeated 10-0 campaigns en route to NCAA Tournament berths in 2010 and 2011.
The Bulldogs (8-2, 0-1 SoCon) had started off the season 8-0 at their home facility and looked poised to remain unbeaten after winning the doubles point and taking the early 1-0 advantage.
Charleston responded by sweeping all six singles matches with all but two being decided in straight sets. Junior Christin Newman defeated Samford's Kristin Lewis, 6-1, 6-1, at the top of the order followed by sophomore Kelly Kambourelis over Stephanie N'tcha, 6-3, 6-3.
Freshmen Samantha Maddox and Jenny Falcone picked up their first SoCon wins at the No. 4 and No. 5 spots to contribute to the final team tally.
Post and Courier
March 6, 2012
Sand, sun and volleyball is a combination that's hard to beat. Apparently, the NCAA agrees. Buoyed by the popularity of Olympic beach volleyball, the NCAA has made sand volleyball the newest women's intercollegiate sport.
And the College of Charleston is getting in on the ground level, one of just over a dozen schools from across the country and the only one in the South Carolina that will be competing in the sport this spring. As an emerging sport, sand volleyball has 10 years in which to gain the minimum number of 40 teams required to be an NCAA championship sport.
The Cougars began practice last week at their home facility, the Creekside Tennis Center in Mount Pleasant, and their schedule consists of five tournaments, including the College of Charleston Sand Classic set for Mar. 23-25. Their opening event is this week in Winter Haven, Fla., the Aspire Higher Volleyball Clash of the Collegians.
Among the other schools participating are Mercer, Jackson- ville, North Florida, Florida Gulf Coast, Florida Sate, Florida International, Tulane, Alabama-Birmingham, Pepperdine, Southern Cal and Long Beach State. College of Charleston coach Jason Kepner said several other schools have committed to begin competing in 2013.
College of Charleston director of athletics Joe Hull didn't have to be convinced that sand volleyball was right for the school, which already has a talented pool of volleyball players who have won either the Southern Conference regular season or tournament every year since 2001.
"We've been playing sand volleyball," Hull said. "In the spring, we hosted a tournament (on the club level). We have volleyball players and some play sand. Since we play it and live at the beach, it seemed like a natural thing for us to look at."
Kepner said the unpredictability of the weather made holding matches on the beach problematical. Creekside already had two sand volleyball courts and the school has added a third at the same location.
The College of Charleston hasn't added any scholarships, though the NCAA allows three. Cougar alumnus Jake Elliott, who played professional beach volleyball for 11 years, is serving as an assistant coach.
Sand versus indoor
Sand volleyball can be much more forgiving than the indoor game, especially when it comes to knee injuries and floor burns. But separated shoulders can occur from diving into the sand, and sand in the eye can be painful.
"Sand is much more tiring," Kepner said. "You'll start a match and at 3-3 you're huffing and puffing, trying to catch your breath."
“Running in sand is great conditioning," said senior Kelly Kolich, who added that after playing on sand she feels like she can jump out of the gym when she returns to indoor volleyball. "In sand, you have to know all the skills. You can't just be able to hit or just dig. You have to do everything."
Indoor volleyball requires six players per side but only two are needed for sand volleyball. A minimum of 10 players is required for a team by the NCAA. A match consists of three sets, the first two played to 21 points and the third to 15.
Both Kepner and Hull see sand volleyball as a recruiting tool that could help the school's indoor program. Kepner said he foresees sand volleyball as being a draw for indoor and vice versa.
"We're one of only a few programs in America where you can sign as a volleyball player and play both indoor and sand," Hull said. "Some people might make a decision to come here because we have both."
And the reaction of players to the program would back that argument.
Emily Shelton, a junior from Cincinnati, said the players are excited about the addition of the sport.
"Every day we learn more about the rules, the travel, the scoring, and the more we learn the more we all get excited," said Shelton, who didn't begin playing sand volleyball until arriving at Charleston.
"We've always done a little bit of sand at the end of each spring. When they told us it was going to be an NCAA sport, we were all excited because we won't be just practicing."
Kolich said one of the reasons she chose the College of Charleston was the beach. Her hometown of Overland Park, Kan., is about as far away from a beach as one can get, but she played sand volleyball in high school on a court constructed by one of her coaches.
"I hate being cold, and from the second I came here and saw the beach I knew this was my top choice," Kolich said.
Post and Courier
March 6, 2012
After coming up one victory short of 20-win seasons, the College of Charleston and Charleston Southern might have opportunities to play in one of the two lower-tier men's postseason basketball tournaments.
Both schools have worthy resumes, but whether they are invited won't be known until late Sunday, after both the NCAA and National Invitation Tournament announce their fields. The College of Charleston is currently No. 110 in the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) while CSU is No. 169.
Charleston Southern coach Barclay Radebaugh, whose team lost to UNC Asheville in the Big South tournament semifinals to finish at 19-12, said his team would like to continue playing, but there are some caveats. The CSU coaching staff met with players Monday afternoon and Radebaugh cited missed time in the classroom as a big consideration.
College of Charleston interim coach Mark Byington said the Cougars are leaning toward not participating in a postseason tournament, and missed classes is a big factor.
"There are multiple reasons," said Byington, whose team also finished with a 19-12 record after losing to App State in the opening round of the Southern Conference tournament.
"(Cougars forward) Trent Wiedeman is probably going to have ankle surgery and I think there could be a long rehab in that. Our guys have missed an unbelievable amount of classes this semester. We probably would have to be a road team and that would mean more missed classes."
"We will have to see if it's in the best interest of our program," said Radebaugh. "I certainly feel like we deserve an opportunity. I feel like we've had a good year. But we have to gauge the interest of the players and see. They have to want to do it. The time we've missed in class already is certainly a consideration."
Charleston Southern has played in the postseason only once, facing UCLA in an opening-round game of the 1997 NCAA tournament.
The College of Charleston has played in the NCAA tournament four times, the last time in 1999. The Cougars have played in the NIT five times, including last year when they made it to the quarterfinals before losing to eventual champion Wichita State. Charleston played in the CBI in 2009 and in 2010.