Maryland Volleyball returns home after a rough trip up north and welcomes the Michigan State Spartans and the Michigan Wolverines to College Park this weekend. Some portion of Friday's contest versus the Spartans promises to be in front of a raucous crowd as the volleyball match serves as a prelude to Maryland Madness festivities.
Friday - Remember it's the Spartans
MSU enters the match at 10-7 overall. Last weekend the Spartans lost to Nebraska in four sets and swept Iowa to bring their conference record to 3-3. This season has been up and down for Michigan State with young players being thrust into major roles and a few injuries along the way. The top attacker is sophomore Chloe Reinig who at 6-4 is one of the tallest outside hitters in the B1G. She is currently second in conference only matches with 4.48 kills per set.
The Spartans use attackers in multiple spots along the net which can make deciphering their offense difficult but also makes it challenging for them to stay in an offensive rhythm as well. Middle hitter Alyssah Fitterer is dynamic attacking off of one foot (usually termed a step or slide attack) and freshman Alyssa Garvelink hits at a very sharp angles with power. Senior libero Kori Moster has had an outstanding career and is one of the top defensive players in the conference. Freshman setter Rachel Minarcik has the opportunity to be an All-American at some point in her career.
Maryland's website has the correct starting time for the match which will begin at 6:00 pm. BTN2Go will stream the match but lists an incorrect starting time of 7:00 pm. For those planning to attend, the match will be played in the main arena at the Xfinity Center.
Saturday - the Wolverines (No X-Men)
On Saturday the Michigan Wolverines make the trip to College Park. They, much like MSU, have had an uneven season with surprising losses and quality wins. Michigan enters the weekend 8-8 overall and 3-3 in conference play. Their last match was, in fact, their best of the season, a 3-0 sweep of #8 Nebraska and tops the list of quality wins.
The Wolverines have some very interesting contrasts within their lineup. Middles Abby Cole and Krystalynn Goode stand 6-5 and 6-3 respectively but due to some injuries 5-8 freshman Caroline Knop starts on the outside. Cole is the Wolverines' the top attacker hitting .392 with 3.67 kills per set in B1G matches. Senior Lexi Dannemiller directs a balanced offense (11.67 assists per set) that finds the team in the top five of all conference offensive rankings. The 'X' factor is Knop. She doesn't necessarily look the part but she has consistently found a way to score all season.
Neither BTN nor BTN Plus will carry Saturday's match versus Michigan. The match begins at 7:00 PM and the only way to see it is to be in the Pavilion at Xfinity Center. Late post game tailgaters should stop by.
The Big wrap-up
Both teams present different challenges for the Terps who Will Likely still be without outside hitter Ashleigh Crutcher. Michigan State has size at every position and can go on big runs with the ability to block at a high level (fourth in the B1G in team blocks). However, ball control and defense have been a major concern which makes it hard for the Spartans to stay in rhythm offensively. If Crutcher is sidelined, the Terps will need big performances from junior Emily Fraik and as well as middles Hailey Murray and Chavi St. Hill. I believe Maryland can get a set and make it competitive before a big home crowd.
Michigan is better offensively but has to work for every point. They have shown that they can beat top teams (Nebraska) but also lose to lower ranked squads (Indiana). The Wolverines should also be able to beat the injury depleted Terps but every set should be close.