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Maryland volleyball vs. Illinois preview: Terps host No. 24 Illinois in Big Ten home opener

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Maryland is searching for its first conference win of the season.

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Maryland volleyball returns home Sunday after 12 straight matches on the road to play its Big Ten home opener against No. 24 Illinois. Following a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Iowa on Wednesday, Maryland’s fourth straight-set loss in a row, the Terps (8-7,0-3) will need a better performance to challenge Illinois (9-5, 2-1) at home.

Maryland had finished non-conference play against top competition, with then-No. 5 Washington and No. 22 Southern California, and was immediately pitted against No. 2 and No. 3 Minnesota and Wisconsin to start the Big Ten season. Wednesday’s match against Iowa was one of the Terps’ few respites from ranked competition in the Big Ten, yet the performance left something to be desired after 24 errors and a 25-16 third-set loss to the Hawkeyes.

Maryland has had more than 20 errors in each of its Big Ten matches this season. The Terps wouldn’t necessarily have defeated Minnesota had they cut down on errors, but it certainly would have been a tighter game. The same goes for the Iowa match, where 13 errors in the second set alone helped diminish Maryland’s chances at a comeback.

In order to pick up their first conference win, the Terps will need to tidy things up. The Illini lost in straight sets to No. 1 Nebraska on Wednesday, but played the Cornhuskers close with set scores of 25-18, 25-22, 25-21.

Three things to know:

  1. Senior Ashlyn MacGregor will be relied upon to lead this young Terps team, comprising of 10 underclassmen, through a difficult opening to the season. The middle blocker proved last game she can with an all-around performance against Iowa, with five kills, four blocks, and two aces. She also leads the team with a .315 hitting percentage, and is third in the nation with 1.80 blocks per set.
  2. Big Ten Freshman of the Week Jacqueline Quade has been a force for Illinois. Quade leads the team with 3.20 kills per set, and had 14 against Nebraska. Maryland’s No. 16 freshman class has had a tough start to Big Ten play, but Gia Milana did have 12 kills against Iowa and leads the Terps with 3.76 kills per set, while Taylor Smith also had 12 assists.
  3. Illinois sophomore Ali Bastianelli is second in the nation and leads the Big Ten with 1.82 blocks per set. The Illini rank third in the conference with 2.96 blocks per set. The Terps are not far behind in that category, with 2.90 blocks per set.

The Terps’s homestand does not last long. Maryland plays No. 22 Michigan and No. 18 Michigan State on the road next weekend.