Maryland volleyball will face one of their toughest tests on the road Wednesday against No. 6 Illinois. The Illini enter the match at 18-3 and 7-3 in the conference, winning three matches in a row. The Terps enter the match at 13-9 and 4-6 in the conference, coming off a strong straight set victory over Indiana on Sunday.
Illinois’ three losses this season have come against No. 3 Minnesota, No.7 Wisconsin and No.9 Nebraska. Of their 18 wins this season, five have come over ranked opponents including: No. 17 Purdue, who swept the season series from the Terps on Friday.
The Illini are one of the top teams in the conference, well-rounded both offensively and defensively. Entering the match they are third in the conference in hitting percentage, second in assists, kills and service aces.
The Illini offense is spearheaded by junior outside hitter Jacqueline Quade and senior setter Jordan Poulter. Quade is tied for first in the conference averaging 4.21 kills per set, while Poulter leads the conference, averaging 11.70 assists per set. From the service line, freshman defensive specialist Taylor Kuper leads the way moving opposing defenses out of system.
With all of their offensive firepower, the Terps defenders will need to be at their best. Freshman libero Allegra Rivas was just awarded Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors for the second time this season. Rivas is the first Terps player to receive the honor twice in a season, while also becoming one of two players to receive the award twice this season.
In addition to Rivas, senior defensive specialist Abigail Bentz and sophomore outside hitter Hailey Rubino must provide a strong backline presence. The middle blocker duo of redshirt freshman Katie Myers and freshman Rainelle Jones will look to block many of the Illini attacks.
Offensively for the Terps, the outside hitter duo of sophomore Erika Pritchard and senior Liz Twilley will look to continue their strong start to conference play. Pritchard enters the match tied with Quade for the conference lead in kills. She finished with 20 kills against Indiana, her highest total in a three-set match this season. The Terps hit extremely efficient in the match against Indiana, hitting .306. They will look to build off that performance facing off against the tough Illini defense.
Senior middle blocker Ali Bastianelli is the focal point of the Illini defense, entering the match third in the conference in blocks averaging 1.42 per set. It will be key for sophomore setter Nicole Alford to set up the hitters with good balls in good positions. Strong play from the service line will also be important, moving the Illini defense out of system. Myers and junior setter Samantha Snyder will look to dial up serves with the perfect mix of pace and location.
The Terps will look to upset one of the top teams in the nation on Wednesday at 7:00 p.m.,before returning home to face Iowa at the Pavilion on Sunday.
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