Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics.

Terps host Big Ten foes Northwestern and No. 4 Illinois

Maryland volleyball enters this weekend at 14-10 and has two big matches this weekend, facing off against Northwestern on Friday and No. 4 Illinois on Sunday.

Northwestern enters the match at 13-11, winners of two straight matches against Ohio State and Iowa, while Illinois enter the match at 20-3 and winners of five straight matches. They will face Ohio State on Friday night before traveling to College Park.

The Wildcats enter the match the second lowest in the conference in, averaging a .195 hitting percentage. However in their two most recent wins, the Wildcats are averaging a .289 hitting percentage with strong attack as of late.

The outside hitter duo of freshman Abryanna Cannon and sophomore Nia Robinson lead the Wildcat offense. Freshman libero Allegra Rivas and the middle blocker duo of redshirt freshman Katie Myers and freshman Rainelle Jones will be vital in providing a strong front and back line presence to slow down the Wildcat offense.

Sophomore middle hitter Alana Walker and junior middle blocker Olivia Viscuso guide the Wildcat defense from the center of the court. The outside hitter duo of sophomore Erika Pritchard and senior Liz Twilley will look to find gaps in the Wildcat defense. Myers, Jones and sophomore outside hitter Hailey Rubino will look to add further balance to the Terps offense.

Junior setter Samantha Snyder and Myers, the conference leader in aces, will be vital for the Terps from the service line, moving the Wildcat blockers out of position. Sophomore setter Nicole Alford and Pritchard will also look to generate success from the service line, allowing the Terps attackers to have an easier time finding gaps in the Wildcat defense.

First serve is slated for 7:00 p.m on Friday in the Xfinity Center Pavilion.

The last time the Terps and Illini met on October 24, the Illini won in straight sets dominating for most of the match. The Terps hit one of their lowest hitting percentages of the season at .055 and will look to bounce back on Sunday.

In addition to their struggling offense, the Terps combined for 21 errors in the first two sets which is very difficult to come back from against a top ten team. However, the Terps cut the number of errors in set three in half and will look to build on that for Sunday’s match.

The Illini offense is spearheaded by junior outside hitter Jacqueline Quade and senior setter Jordan Poulter. The last time the two teams met, the Illini had great offensive balance making it difficult for the Terps defense to stop them.

Quade led the Illini with 12 kills, while the outside hitter duo of sophomore Megan Cooney also finished with 12 and redshirt junior Beth Prince finished with nine. Rivas, Myers and Jones will look to limit the success of the Illini attackers both at the net and on the backline.

The strong Illini defense was on display throughout the last match, led by senior middle blocker Ali Bastianelli and junior middle blocker Ashlyn Fleming. Pritchard led the Terps offense with 9 kills last match, while everyone else on the roster finished with five or less.

In order to have more success against the stout Illini defense, the Terps will need to generate more offensive balance. It will be a group effort between Twilley, Jones and Myers to complement Pritchard, who the Illini defense will be keying in on.

First serve is slated for 1:00 p.m in the Xfinity Center Pavilion on Sunday against Illinois.