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Maryland volleyball vs. Michigan preview

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The Terps head back on the road after back-to-back home games.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

After losing four straight matches, the Maryland volleyball finally snapped the streak with a three-set win over Indiana.

Maryland bounced back in a big way last weekend, winning the first set by 11, and facing no real push back from the Indiana Hoosiers until the third set. Senior middle blocker Rainelle Jones earned Big Ten Co-Defensive Player of the Week after averaging 3.13 kills per set, 2.5 blocks per set and a .458 hitting percentage in the two weekend matches.

Sophomore outside hitter Sam Csire also got busy over the weekend, accumulating 22 kills, passing 200 kills on the season and 300 in her career.

After defeating No. 8 Minnesota in a hard-fought five-set match, the Wolverines fell flat against No. 7 Ohio State, losing in three sets. Similar to Maryland, the Wolverines have been on the brink of cracking the top-25, making this matchup that much more important.

The Terps will travel to Ann Arbor to face off against Michigan on Friday night at 6 p.m.

Michigan Wolverines (10-5, 3-3 Big Ten)

2020 record: 4-9

Head coach Mark Rosen has spent the last 22 years at the helm of one of the best volleyball programs in the nation. Rosen is the winningest volleyball coach in Michigan’s history with 433 wins and a .618 winning percentage, despite competing in perhaps the toughest conference in all of collegiate volleyball.

Under Rosen, the Wolverines have made the NCAA Tournament 18 times, including a Sweet 16 finish in 2018. Michigan missed out on postseason play last season after finishing with a disappointing 4-9 record.

Players to know

Sophomore outside hitter Jess Mruzik, 6’1, (No. 5) — The 2019 National Gatorade Player of the Year has lived up to the hype since arriving at Michigan. She was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman Team last year and leads the team in kills this year (191). Mruzik is third on the team in assists (10) and digs (141), second on the team in service aces (15), and 10th in the Big Ten in points per set (3.96).

Redshirt sophomore libero/defensive specialist Hannah Grant, 5’8, (No. 9) — After redshirting her first year at Michigan State, Grant has started every single match for the Wolverines over the last two years. Grant has already earned one Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week this season and is currently seventh in the Big Ten in digs per set (3.98). Grant contributes on the offensive end as well, totaling 68 assists and 13 service aces, second and third on her team.

Junior outside hitter/middle blocker May Pertofsky, 6’1, (No. 18) — Pertofsky earned All-Big Ten Freshman Team honors her first year with the Wolverines and has led the team in service aces the last two years, averaging .50 per set this year, good for second in the Big Ten. Pertofsky is also third on the team in kills (141), blocks (50) and hitting percentage (.301).

Strength

Serving. The Wolverines are a solid all around team with no glaring strengths or weaknesses. They are, however, an extremely good serving team as they are fourth in the Big Ten in service aces per set (1.54) and have one of the best servers in the nation in Pertofsky who is 24th in the nation in service aces per set.

Weakness

Offense. If we dive deeper into the statistics we can see that Michigan, while not bad, is not the best on the offense, outside of serving. The Wolverines are third-to-last in the Big Ten in assists per set (11.09) and only tenth in kills per set (12.57).

Three things to watch

1. Who will be starting at libero? After going down with an injury late in the fourth set against Northwestern, freshman libero Milan Gomillion has not returned to the court. Graduate student Kaylee Thomas was next in line, accumulating an impressive six digs per set and 1.33 assists per set in her first start of the season. Will coach Hughes choose to rest Gomillion for one more week, or will the star freshman be good to go for this important match?

2. It should be another nail-biting matchup. Despite being 2-12 all time against Michigan, Maryland has held their own in recent matchups. The Terps have won two of their last four matches against Michigan, including splitting last season’s two-game series, each being decided in the fifth set. Both teams have been ranked near each other all season and this game could propel the winner into the top-25.

3. Can the Terps bottle up their new found momentum? After falling to the unranked Northwestern Wildcats last Friday night, the Terps officially lost four in a row, causing some concern after their 13-0 start. Maryland didn’t let this streak continue to build, sweeping Indiana in convincing fashion and dominating nearly every statistical category. The question becomes, can the Terps take their impressive play into this weekend, taking on a tough opponent in Michigan?