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Serving up success

The newest addition to varsity sports at USC is sand volleyball, which features two J-school freshmen who attribute their early success to communication skills developed in the classroom. Standout student-athletes Jade Vitt and Morgan LaVigne have successfully acclimated to the program and have become outspoken leaders on and off the court. The 17-player team has high expectations for its inaugural season and the future of the sand volleyball program.

As a student pursuing a degree in public relations, Vitt attributed much of her success to her interest in the communications field. The college matches consist of five two-on-two competitions that are played to the best-of-three sets. "Since it is only two girls covering a large court, it is essential that communication is present between you and your partner so that you’re always on the same page." The team’s ability to communicate effectively while on the court has resulted in wins against the University of Alabama at Birmingham, University of Oregon, College of Charleston and Jacksonville University.

"I believe that within the next few years, the sand volleyball program here at USC is going to be one of the best in the country," noted Vitt. "It is an incredible feeling knowing that this group of girls is a part of history." And history comes with a price tag, as the new $995,000 facility has been cited as one of the best in the country. The new complex features a fenced-in stadium with five sand courts, synthetic turf grass to aid in water drainage, outdoor showers, a large scoreboard and bleachers for Gamecocks fans. Both Vitt and LaVigne agreed that finding a balance be-tween academics and athletics can be a challenge at times.

LaVigne is pursuing a degree in visual communications and noted that time management has been crucial to her success in the classroom. Coach Moritz is invested in the education of his players and ensures that academics are the number-one priority. LaVigne echoed this sentiment, saying, "Our coach always stresses the importance of school coming first."

LaVigne emphasized the team’s overall communication when training and breaking down film of upcoming opponents. "Off-the-court communication is key to making sure we are all on the same page and striving toward the same goal," she said. "We always look to uplift and encourage one another to make each other better." The communication continues to drive the success of the tight-knit group that currently sits at the top of the collegiate rankings.

Both LaVigne and Vitt have made a successful adjustment as freshmen at USC. LaVigne and Vitt received honor roll recognition from the university and the School of Journalism and Mass Communications. "Public relations has always been a thought in the back of my head," said Vitt. "I see myself in the field of journalism and it has always appealed to me."

LaVigne has wanted to pursue a degree in journalism since she was a freshman in high school. "My interest had always been along the lines of photography," said LaVigne. "My interest has changed more toward reporting since I’ve been at USC." With her passion for journalism, and an interest in photography, LaVigne hopes to one day work for ESPN.

The players and coaches are holding the new program to a high standard, as they have set an early tone of accomplishment. "We have all of the resources and knowledge that a new collegiate sport needs to take off. I believe it is going to do just that within the next couple of years," said Vitt.