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Volleyball travels north to face two top 25 foes

Still in search of their first Big Ten conference win, the Maryland volleyball squad hits the road for matches against #23 Minnesota and #6 Wisconsin.

Todd C

After an encouraging homestand with close losses to Indiana and Purdue, Maryland heads north for matchups versus Minnesota and Wisconsin. The 23rd ranked Gophers have lost three in a row. After taking a set against Penn State, the Gophers were swept at Illinois and Northwestern.

Friday night in the Twin Cities

Prior to taking the Minnesota job, Head Coach Hugh McCutcheon held both the men's and women's Olympic head coaching positions in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. McCutcheon led the men to gold in 2008 and the women to silver in 2012. In his third season in the Twin Cities, he has attempted to mold a team that fits his style.

Over the past few seasons Minnesota has been very competitive but with a large number of young players and transfers, they have stretches of inconsistent play. The top attackers are junior outside hitter Daly Santana and senior right side hitter Adriana Nora. Santana is very streaky attacking and serving. At times, she can dominate a match but she can also have long bouts of weaker results. Nora began her career at Baylor and brings size and power to the right side.

Twin sophomore sisters Hannah and Paige Tapp are the starting middles. Hannah is a bit more advanced as a player but Paige brings excellent athleticism to the position. Sophomore setter Katie Schau is extremely quick but can also be inconsistent.

BTN Plus ( ) will stream Friday night's contest. The match is scheduled to start at 8:00 pm eastern time.

And Sunday in Madison

The sixth ranked Wisconsin Badgers are currently 12-2 on the season with their only losses against #5 Washington and #3 Penn State. The Badgers are a very complete team with strong attackers at every position and arguably the top setter in the country, sophomore Lauren Carlini. Carlini burst on the national scene last season and led Wisconsin to the national title match. She is currently third the nation in assists per set.

The Badgers returned almost every key starter from their run to the championship game including senior right side Courtney Thomas, sophomore middle Haleigh Nelson and senior middle Dominique Thompson. Thomas has extensive setting experience which provides dangerous options when Carlini takes the first ball on defense.

In the back court, junior libero Taylor Morey and senior Deme Morales make up one the B1G's best defensive lineups. Morales is very athletic and was a starting outside hitter last season during the Badgers run to the title match.

As with Friday's match at Minnesota, BTN Plus ( ) will stream Sunday's contest. The match is scheduled to start at 2:00 pm eastern time.

In closing

Both Minnesota and WIsconsin play in front of loud home crowds and are tough to beat on their floor. Having played at one of the B1G's toughest venues in Champaign, however, the Terps should be past the point of being intimidated and should begin, as Coach Aird has urged them, to embrace the situation and the challenge. While they haven't broken through, Maryland has continued to improve their play over their conference matches and proven that they can compete against each team so far.

Ashleigh Crutcher and Hailey Murray match up with any other players that B1G teams have in their lineup. Minnesota is a team that can be prone to poor play and hopefully the Terps can exploit those opportunities. Getting to five sets is a definite possibility and when that happens, it is truly anyone's match. Wisconsin will be a tough matchup. Staying competitive in each set will be the goal.