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Maryland volleyball vs. Michigan State preview (part two)

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The Terps will look to sweep the season series with Michigan State.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

After defeating Michigan State on Saturday, Maryland volleyball had a quick turnaround as it faced Rutgers on Wednesday.

Maryland was able to make it two in a row for the first time in conference play, defeating Rutgers in a three-set battle. This was not your typical three-set win, however, as Rutgers made every set tough on Maryland, which included a seven-point comeback by the Terps in the second set.

Outside hitter Sam Csire led the way for the Terps, totaling 10 digs and 20 kills, her career-high against a conference opponent. Freshman libero Milan Gomillion also had a memorable night with 15 digs and her first career kill.

Similar to Maryland, Michigan State has had one game since its Saturday night match. The Spartans took down a very tough Purdue squad in five sets on Wednesday night. Now, for the second time within the week, the Terps will take on the Spartans once again after they beat them in four sets back on Oct. 16.

Michigan State will be on the road this time around, as it will travel to College Park for a 7 p.m. game on Saturday.

Michigan State Spartans (9-9, 2-7 Big Ten)

2020-21 record: 3-12 (3-12, Big Ten)

Head Coach Cathy George is the definition of a trailblazer, being the first woman to coach in the NCAA Division 1 Final Four, leading UT-Arlington in 1989. During her 16 years at Michigan State, George already has the most wins of any head coach in program history and has led the Spartans to seven of the last 10 NCAA Tournaments, including three trips to the Sweet 16 and an Elite Eight finish in 2017. The Spartans have had a mediocre start, but will need to step it up if they want to participate in postseason play.

Players to know

Redshirt junior defensive specialist/libero Talia Edmunds, 5-foot-7, No. 1 — After missing her entire sophomore season, Edmonds has been a reliable option for the Spartans. She earned Academic All-Big Ten honors in 2019 and 2020 and was named a team captain for the first time this year. Edmonds currently leads the team in digs (208), is second in service aces (13), and third in assists (45).

Junior outside hitter Biamba Kabengele, 6-foot-0, No. 6 — Kabengele started her collegiate career out strong in 2019, bringing home the 2019 MSU Most Improved Player, earning a spot on the 2019 Western Michigan All-Tournament Team, and winning Big Ten Freshman of the Week twice. She is one of the best servers in the nation averaging .43 service aces per set, the 46th-best in the nation and third-best in the Big Ten. Kabengele is also third on the team in kills (96) and fifth on the team in digs (81).

Junior outside hitter Cecilee Max-Brown, 6-foot-1, No. 20 — Max-Brown has carved a role for herself as the second option in the Spartans offense behind Franklin. She put up 17 kills, a .316 hitting percentage, and a team-high 18 digs in the five-set win over Purdue, proving that she can be a game-changer.

Strength

Offense as of late. Michigan State hasn’t been known for being a great offensive team at the net all season but has been very good recently. The Spartans recorded 13.4 kills per set on a .313 hitting percentage against Purdue, despite them being a very formidable defensive team.

Weakness

Errors. Michigan State has a tendency to get sloppy at times, evident from its last match against Maryland, and this has been one of the main components of its 2-7 conference record. The Spartans committed 37 errors against Purdue and 52 against Maryland in only four sets, nearly double the Terps total.

Three things to watch

1. Csrie vs. Franklin part two. The two standout sophomore outside hitters are coming off of back-to-back phenomenal outings and will meet again on Wednesday night. While Franklin had five more kills, three more digs and a .019 better hitting percentage in their previous match, it was Csire and the Terps who came out on top. With both players playing the best they have all season, this contest should be in for another great duel.

2. How will the Spartans respond to limited rest? Both teams only have three days of preparation, but Michigan State is coming off of a very hard-fought five-set win, in which it took everything they had to pull it out. With having to travel to College Park, along with the limited rest, it will be interesting to see if the Spartans can overcome this mental and physical battle.

3. Can Maryland use home-court advantage to get its third in a row? The Terps are now on a two-game winning streak and will have the opportunity to be .500 in conference play with a win on Saturday night. One of the biggest advantages that Maryland has had all season is the Pavilion in the Xfinity Center and the electric atmosphere that comes with it, resulting in a 9-2 home record.

“I want this to be a tough place to play,” Maryland head coach Adam Hughes said. “The band does a really good job for us, the band makes a lot of noise. There have been a lot of missed serves in our gym and we’re thankful for playing in the Pavilion.”