The world of Big Ten volleyball is relentlessly tough and ceaselessly competitive. The conference draws some of the game's best coaches and, by the end of the 2015 season, Maryland coach Steve Aird and his assistants, Adam Hughes and Kristin Kenney, had shown their readiness to compete at that level. The Terps won three of their last seven matches, including upending 12th ranked Ohio State in straight sets and winning sets at home over Penn State and eventual national champion Nebraska.
But in a conference also populated by many of the nation's best players, good coaching can take a team only so far. At some point, the roster needs comparable talent. In only their third season and first full recruiting class, Aird and his staff have not only accepted the challenge but they have, to borrow a term from their sport, killed it. For more than a decade, PrepVolleyball.com has published an annual list of its top 30 recruiting classes. This year, Maryland makes its first ever appearance on that list, crashing the party at No. 16 ($).
A deeper look
PrepVolleyball.com compiles a list of 100 players that they label "Senior Aces." As she did for Volleyball Magazine, Gia Milana occupied the number 15 spot on the Senior Aces list. Myers didn't quite crack the top 50 but checked in at a respectable 62. PrepVolleyball says that this pair "will add plenty of spice to an already improved lineup."
Terps fans will see Michigan Gatorade Player of the Year Milana, who the publication calls "a cornerstone for years to come," play all six rotations. She has, perhaps, as powerful an arm as we have ever seen at Maryland and, as we learned from her coaches, big point ability.
Though Katie Myers, a middle blocker from Ohio, is rehabbing from an injury, the staff hopes she'll be available by the start of B1G play. Not only should Myers give Maryland offensive production from post to post across the front row, but PrepVolleyball calls her "a shutdown blocker." Her Mintonette club coach Max Miller left no doubt about her toughness and competitiveness in our profile from earlier this spring.
It's noteworthy that Milana is not the only Gatorade Player of the Year in the Terrapins' 2016 class. Aird and staff piggybacked the arrival of 2014-15 Maryland Gatorade Player of the Year Liz Twilley by bringing in her successor, Megan McTigue. McTigue is a long and physical outside hitter with the potential to produce some exciting moments for Terps fans.
Another local star, Nell Drummey, will remind long time fans of Maryland's all time digs leader, Sara Harper. Drummey is exceptionally quick and plays with passion and non-stop hustle.
As Whitney Craigo and Carlotta Oggioni enter their senior seasons, a key member of the class is 5'11" setter Taylor Smith, fills a spot of developmental need for the Terps. The Auburn, Indiana, native is another hard-nosed competitor who carries the impressive nickname T-Nasty.
A late addition to the class, Aylin Saran, trained with the Czech U-19 national team. Saran is a high-IQ six rotation player. Not only does she add more international flair to Maryland's lineup; her all-around game will provide added depth.
Although PrepVolleyball.com says,
Despite playing in arguably the best conference in the country, there is good reason to believe Maryland is a program on the rise. This class of six will aid the ascendancy.
Maryland fans shouldn't expect the Terrapins to rise toward the top of the conference as quickly as they rose in the recruiting rankings. The world of B1G volleyball is relentlessly tough and ceaselessly competitive. In addition to Maryland at number 16, eight other conference squads (#29 Indiana, #23 Ohio State, #22 Illinois, #14 Michigan, #13 Wisconsin, #12 Nebraska and #9 Minnesota) have top 30 classes. And Penn State will always be a powerhouse.
Still, Maryland clearly is a program on the rise. And, just as Terps fans can expect to see relentless effort on the court, Aird continues his tireless effort on the recruiting trail. The staff believes that the 2017 class will be every bit as good and perhaps better than the group coming under the shell in 2016.
To demonstrate how tireless Aird is, Sunday he received his first verbal commit for the class of 2019.
We are so proud of Cara Lewis (@x_5everalone) for committing to play at Maryland ❤️We can't wait to watch you continue to grow!#terpsrising— Bowie Volleyball (@BowieVballIzLit) May 23, 2016
Not only is Lewis already a physically impressive 6'1" entering tenth grade but her highlight tape shows her astonishing potential. Long time Maryland fans might recognize her father's name, Cedric Lewis. Yes, for the second time in as many years, Aird has gotten a pledge from the daughter of a Terps basketball star.
Better days are ahead for Maryland's volleyball program and it may not be long before Big Ten Volleyball learns to strach z želva, la paura la tartaruga or, as we locals might say, Fear the Turtle.