The Maryland Terrapins volleyball squad hosts the Minnesota Gophers in a 7:00 pm match at the Xfinity Center Wednesday night. To most fans, this matchup would look to be an easy night for the Gophers. Minnesota is routinely a top 25 team that has made deep runs in the NCAA tournament. However, this season has not been a routine one for the Gophers. Entering tonight's match, Minnesota is 16-11 overall and 6-10 in the B1G. They have lost four of their last six matches and have an RPI of 51.
The first time around
The first meeting on October 10th in Minneapolis was a 3-0 sweep for Minnesota but Maryland competed well and posted some of their best numbers of the season. Senior outside hitter Ashleigh Crutcher led the Terps in kills with 13 and freshman middle Hailey Murray and junior outside Emily Fraik chipped in with seven each. The Gophers also played well and hit .387 overall. They were led by junior outside hitter Daly Santana who had 16 kills and hit .500. Sophomore middle Paige Tapp added 11 kills and hit .400. Santana continues to lead the Gophers in kills (3.91 per set) and aces (0.37 per set).
What to look for
October 10th feels like a long time ago for Minnesota. They were 12-4 and ranked 23rd in the nation. At this point in the season, the Gophers are definitely a bubble team very much in need of a win. On the other hand, Maryland is at the tail end of a season long learning experience but they have played well in spurts. When the two match up, there's a chance for a great match. Minnesota is at a crossroads - do they step up, win out and go to the tournament or do they pack it in and give a young, hard working Terps squad an opportunity for an upset.
Individually, Crutcher has continued to play at an all conference level (3rd in kills per set) and Fraik has shown signs of raising her play in recent matches. If the Terps can control the ball effectively and get the middles into the offense, there is a chance that this match will very close. Ultimately I see Minnesota winning but needing at least four sets and possibly a fifth and all the sets could be close and competitive.
The match is at 7:00 pm in the Xfinity Center and can be seen on BTN2GO.