Maryland Volleyball kicks off their season with a tournament in North Carolina hosted by Elon. The Terps open with Elon on Friday at 7:00PM followed by matches on Saturday against Liberty at 10:00AM and San Jose State at 4:30PM. Friday night's match will be Head Coach Steve Aird's first career match as a head coach.
Elon comes off a 16-17 season and a seventh place finish in the Southern Conference. The Phoenix are coached by Mary Tendler who was a four time All-Big Ten player at Illinois. Elon has moved to the Colonial Athletic Association this season and will be led by their two leading attackers from last season, senior middle Kris Harris and junior outside Megan Gravley. The leader in assists, junior Ana Nicksic, also returns. The Phoenix will need to replace second team all-conference performer Cail Estes who was second in assists and third in kills last season.
Saturday starts off with a morning match against Liberty. Last year, the Flames finished 11-18 and were anchored by senior first team all-conference setter Jade Craycraft. This season they return junior Caroline Douglas who led the team in kills last season. With Craycraft's graduation, they will need to find a starting setter but the two wild cards will be the Vorster sisters. Sirena is an incoming freshmen and her big sister Jade is a transfer from Hawaii. Jade was a two time All-Big West performer for the Rainbow Wahine who are a perennial top 15 team. Their addition adds size (6'4" and 6'2") and big time experience to Liberty.
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The final match of the weekend is against San Jose State at 4:30PM. San Jose State is led by first year coach Jolene Shepardson. The Spartans finished 8-23 and return only two players from last season's roster. Shepardson began a major house cleaning and has brought in twelve new players from all parts of the globe including Brazil, Czech Republic, Spain and Puerto Rico. The two returnees are libero Kiely Pieper and outside Tyanna Roy.
The opening weekend brings with it excitement and a nervous energy for every team in the country. Opening the road also adds additional challenges especially for any freshmen. The core of Maryland's team all have experience and having the top two attacking threats as polished seniors should help calm any nerves the team carries with it.
Maryland looks to have an advantage physically against each team with an exception being the transfer from Hawaii, Liberty's Jade Vorster. Liberty's size and athletic ability, San Jose State's foreign influence and Elon's home court advantage could add some difficulty to each match. However I would expect three Terrapin victories to begin Coach Aird's career at Maryland.