Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Terps return home for two vital conference matches

Maryland volleyball will return home this weekend taking on two more conference foes Michigan State and No. 13 Michigan, looking to build on their straight victory against Rutgers on Saturday.

The Spartans enter the match at 14-5 coming off of a four-set loss to the No.17 Purdue Boilermakers. The Wolverines enter the match at 15-2, their only losses coming against No. 9 Penn State and No. 3 Nebraska.

“Different styles of play, different types I think, but they are both obviously big challenges,” Head coach Adam Hughes said.

Michigan State

Similar to the Terps, the Spartans have a very young roster after graduating six seniors leaving one currently on the roster. Despite their youth, the Spartans have had an impressive start to the season.

“Michigan State is playing with a lot of really talented young players, they’re really physical at a couple of different positions,” Hughes said. “They have been a lot like us, up and down.”

Freshman middle blocker Naya Gros has the third highest offensive efficiency in the Big Ten, hitting at .403 clip. Gros is also fifth in the conference averaging 1.36 blocks per set. Sophomore outside hitter Alyssa Chronowski leads the team with 225 kills, 12th in the conference. Gros and Chronowski form an extremely dynamic duo leading the Spartan offense.

The middle blocker duo of redshirt freshman Katie Myers and freshman Rainelle Jones will need to play stout defensively at the net. With a player as efficient as Gros, the Terps blockers must limit her success in the first set. In addition to the blockers at the net, the libero duo of freshman Allegra Rivas and sophomore Samantha Burgio will look to provide support on the backline.

The Spartans are third in the conference, averaging 2.85 blocks per set, as well as fourth in the conference forcing their opponents to hit at a .159 clip. To combat their strong defending, the Terps attack will look for balance. The outside hitter trio of sophomore Erika Pritchard, senior Liz Twilley and freshman Emma Schriner will aim to provide offensive threats all over the court.

The more offensively balanced the Terps are, the tougher it will be for the Spartans defenders to predict where the attacks come from.

No. 13 Michigan

The Wolverines have a very talented attack, leading the conference in average assists per set as well as second in average kills per set. Junior setter Mackenzi Welsh leads the Big Ten in assists, averaging 11.54 a set.

In addition to their talented offense, freshman outside hitter Paige Jones is second in the conference averaging 0.40 aces per set only trailing Myers. The Terps defensive unit will need to position themselves well in order to prevent Jones from having success serving.

Head coach Mark Rosen has been at the helm of the Michigan program for 19 seasons, the winningest volleyball coach in the program’s history. Coach Hughes has great respect for the Wolverines, and knows they are an extremely intelligent team.

“[Michigan] is always a high I.Q., really good defensive team,” Hughes said. “They seem to be back in that same mix.”

Senior outside hitter Carly Skjodt is fifth in the conference another talented offensive threat the Terps defenders will need to watch out for. Junior outside hitter Sydney Wetterstrom provides a nice compliment to Skjodt, and will pose a challenge for the Terps defense. Similar to the match against Michigan State, the Terps defense will need have a strong outing, as well as limiting the number of errors.

Both teams will pose a tough challenge for the Terps, who will look to build their conference record in front of the home crowd at the Pavilion.

First serve is slated for 7:00 p.m, Friday against Michigan State.