Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics.

Terps battle No. 9 Penn State and Rutgers in back to back road tests

Maryland volleyball will look to continue their momentum from Saturday’s thrilling five set victory over Ohio State against No. 9 Penn State and Rutgers on Friday and Saturday.

The Nittany Lions enter the match 11-3, including two consecutive victories over Michigan and Michigan State. Rutgers enters the match struggling at 6-11, with four consecutive losses including a straight set loss to Maryland two weeks ago.

Both Penn State and Rutgers enter the match first and second in the Big Ten in blocks averaging 3.18 and 2.97 blocks per set respectively. Defense is a strength of both squads, which means the Terps will need to have the offensive balance which has been crucial in their eleven victories this season.

No. 9 Penn State

In addition to leading to the conference in blocks, the Nittany Lions are also second in the conference holding their opponents to an average .144 hitting percentage. The freshman middle blocker duo of Serena Gray and Kaitlyn Hord play a huge part third and ninth in the conference averaging 1.55 and 1.23 blocks per set respectively.

Despite their strong defense, the Nittany Lions also have a very balanced and efficient offense. Outside hitter graduate student Taylor Leath and freshman setter Jonni Parker lead the offense with 120 and 113 kills respectively.

Hord and Gray are also two of the most successful attackers in the conference. Hord is second overall hitting at a .417 clip and Gray is seventh overall hitting a .385 clip.

Defensively for the Terps, it will be a community effort. However redshirt sophomore Katie Myers and freshman Rainelle Jones will need to lead the way providing a stout net-front presence.

Jones finished with a career high eight blocks in the last match against Ohio State and will look to continue pressing over at the net, limiting the Nittany Lion attacks. The libero duo of freshman Allegra Rivas and sophomore Samantha Burgio will need to step up as well, providing a solid back line presence when the ball gets passed the blockers.

Rutgers

The Scarlet Knights are still without junior middle blocker Stasa Miljevic who injured her knee in the match against Maryland, however junior middle blocker Jasmine Stackhouse is still dangerous, averaging 1.21 blocks per set. In order to keep Stackhouse off balance, the Terps will need to make it tough for her to predict where the attacks are coming from.

The outside hitter duo of sophomore Erika Pritchard and senior Liz Twilley will look to build on their strong play against Ohio State. Pritchard and Twilley finished with a combined 25 kills, many of which were in clutch situations throughout the match. Freshman outside hitter Emma Schriner as well as the middle blocker duo of Jones and Myers will need to continue their strong play both offensively and defensively.

Similar balance to the first match against Rutgers, Pritchard with 13 kills, Twilley with 12 and Myers with 7 is a good recipe for success.

The Terps will look to win two very important matches, before returning home to the Pavilion and hosting Michigan State and No.17 Michigan.