Maryland volleyball will close out their regular season facing off against Iowa on Friday and No. 6 Nebraska on Saturday. The Terps defeated the Hawkeyes last month in straight sets and will face the Cornhuskers for the first time this season. The Terps (17-13, 8-10) will look to potentially strengthen their NCAA tournament resume.
Strong defense propelled Maryland to victory the last time both teams met. The Terps finished with 12 blocks and held the Hawkeyes to a .090 hitting percentage. The freshman duo of middle blocker Rainelle Jones and freshman outside hitter Emma Schriner were stout defensively at the net. Schriner had a strong match offensively as well, posting six kills along with a .385 hitting percentage.
“In practice we definitely were working on blocking and knowing the scouting report of the hitters,” Jones said after their last meeting.
The Hawkeyes’ offense is led by senior outside hitter Taylor Louis, who is top ten in the conference in average kills per set. In the last meeting Louis had a season low five kills, as well as a season low -.094 hitting percentage. The Terps defense led by Jones, Schriner and freshman libero Allegra Rivas will look to limit Louis’ success once again.
In addition to their strong defense at the net, Maryland had a strong serving performance, finishing with with six aces. Sophomore outside hitter Erika Pritchard led the way with three aces. Pritchard also had 20 kills, tied for her highest total in a three set match this season. Alongside Pritchard, senior outside hitter Liz Twilley and redshirt freshman middle blocker Katie Myers will look to find offensive balance in a hostile environment on the road.
“Iowa is a really good defensive team, they scrap really well,” Hughes said. “They always like to play at home. It’s a tough gym to play in; it’s a big arena we have to be prepared to play in a different venue.”
Before taking on Maryland Saturday, Nebraska will face off against Ohio State. Entering the Ohio State match, the Cornhuskers are 22-6 and have won six matches in a row. Saturday night will be senior night for the Cornhuskers.
The Cornhusker offense is spearheaded by the duo of senior outside hitter Mikaela Foecke and sophomore middle blocker Lauren Stivrins. Stivrins is third in the conference averaging a .395 hitting percentage thus far this season, while Foecke is top ten in the conference in both service aces and average kills per set.
Maryland’s defense will need to make sure Foecke’s serve does not consistently move them out of system. Jones and Schriner will need to provide a strong net-front presence while Rivas and sophomore outside hitter Hailey Rubino will need to provide support from the backline.
Similar to the Hawkeyes, the Cornhuskers have a strong defense, ranked second overall in the conference in average blocks per set. Freshman middle blocker Callie Schwarzenbach is second in the conference in average blocks per set, standing at 6-foot-5 presenting an imposing presence at the net. Moving the Cornhusker defense out of system will be vital for Maryland to have offensive success.
Myers, the conference leader in aces and junior setter Samantha Snyder will look to find gaps in the defense, shifting it out of system. When the defense is moved out of system, Pritchard and the Terps other hitters will need to capitalize against a top 10 opponent. The Terps have improved against top 10 opponents as the season has progressed.
“I’m proud of the growth of the team’s belief; this weekend I was proud of that from start to finish,” Hughes said.
The Terps will look to close out their season on a high note, with first serve slated for 8:00 p.m Friday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“I think the team is pretty excited to get back to work,” Hughes said. “ I think there are some positives to take away from today.”