Melissa Morello and Catey Warren knew they were having a pretty good season.
Morello and Warren — the College of Charleston’s top sand volleyball pair — spent a grueling regular season proving they could compete against the country’s elite sand players.
The rest of the nation took notice.
Morello and Warren received an at-large bid to compete in this weekend’s Collegiate Sand Volleyball National Championships in Gulf Shores, Ala. Morello and Warren become the first pair from the College of Charleston to receive an at-large bid.
Not bad for a program that didn’t even exist five years ago.
“This is a great day for the College of Charleston sand volleyball program,” said College of Charleston head coach Jason Kepner. “To have a pair that played so well and so consistently throughout the season and now to have a chance to get back to Gulf Shores and play for a national championship is great. Everyone has worked very hard all year, and getting a pair selected with an at-large bid shows that those efforts have paid off.”
The Pairs Championships begin with 10 at-large duos engaged in pool play on Friday and Saturday. Morello and Warren are the No. 4 seed in Pool B and will face Grand Canyon University, the pool’s top-seeded team, at 11 a.m. Friday.
“Mel has been a pretty consistent performer for us during her three years here,” Kepner said. “Catey’s improvement over the four years here has been tremendous. She started her first year with our five team and slowly worked her way up the ladder to play with the first team. She has put a lot of hard work into her game. Catey is such a great story. She has shown how far hard work and dedication can take you. Together they’ve been our most consistent team all season.”
Morello, a junior from Milwaukee, and Warren, a senior who played at Ashley Hall, compiled a 12-8 record this year. The duo captured the Georgia State Invitational and played well at the Fiesta on Siesta Tournament where they won their group and beat the top duo from Louisiana State in the first elimination round before narrowly falling to Florida State’s No. 1 tandem in a three-set thriller to finish fifth overall.
“We were fortunate to have a couple of great runs at the last couple of tournaments,” Morello said. “We know we’re going to be playing the best teams in the country down there, and the coaches have done a great job of getting us prepared for that. We’re going to see pairs with great shots and great ball control so we’ve got to be at the top of our game. We’re just looking forward to the challenge.”
Kepner said the pair has a chance to get out of pool play if they play their best.
“I think they’ve got a tough pool with UCLA and Arizona and, of course, the team from Grand Canyon,” Kepner said. “Mel and Catey side out very well. If they can control the ball and side out, they can play with anybody. If they get out of the pool play, then anything can happen.”
The teammates have different styles that work well together. Morello is the fiery one on the sand, always willing to show her emotions, while Warren is more reserved.
“Catey and I are very different,” Morello said. “She’s definitely a lot quieter out there and I’m a little more of the spunky one, but I think we balance each other really well.”