The newest, hottest thing to arrive in Columbia is sand.
Sand volleyball at USC.
The sand volleyball team is new this year and hosts its first home tournament this weekend. The Gamecock Invitational began Friday and concludes Sunday, when the Gamecocks play the University of Louisiana-Monroe at 1:15 p.m.
For the uninitiated, here is what you need to know about sand volleyball:
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• Sand volleyball is the fastest-growing NCAA sport ever. Sixteen teams competed in the 2012 inaugural season. There are 41 Division I schools who have added the sport since then.
• With more than 40 teams, the NCAA will sponsor an NCAA Championship once the programs have sponsored the sport for two years.
• South Carolina was the first SEC school to add sand volleyball, and the 31st in the nation.
The Gamecocks head coach is Moritz Moritz, who coached the indoor volleyball team for the past two seasons.
USC’s team has 18 players from 12 different states – Virginia, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Nevada, California, Florida, Arizona, South Carolina, Georgia, Michigan, Maryland and New Jersey.
Twelve of the 18 team members play sand volleyball exclusively, while six have also played indoor volleyball.
Seven teams will compete this weekend – Louisiana State University, Oregon, College of Charleston, University of Alabama-Birmingham, ULM, Mercer and USC.
A winner is determined when a team wins three of five pairs matches. Each pairs match is a best-of-three format. The first two sets play to 21 points, and the third set (if necessary) is to 15.
Admission is free to all of South Carolina’s sand volleyball home matches. The complex is located in the Athletics Village directly behind the right-field wall of Carolina Softball Stadium. Fans can park for free in the Athletics Village garage, and a shuttle will be available for those who need it. Fans will be given car stickers on Sunday, while supplies last.