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Maryland volleyball vs. Iowa preview

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The Terps will look to snap their three-game losing skid.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

After losing to Michigan in three sets for the second time this year, Maryland volleyball was swept yet again by No. 11 Nebraska.

Maryland suffered a tough loss on Friday night, as it started off extremely sluggish, committing five early errors and eventually losing the first set 25-11. The Terps looked much more alive in the second, even going up 24-21 before a 5-0 Nebraska run stole the set. The third set was very evenly matched until an 8-1 Nebraska run propelled them to victory, winning the third set 25-18.

Outside hitter Sam Csire had a solid night despite the loss, recording nine kills, 14 digs, and one block. Setter Sydney Dowler didn’t play her best match but still finished with 17 assists, nine digs, and three blocks.

Maryland’s next opponent, Iowa, has played some extremely good opponents recently, losing three of its last four with all of the losses being sweeps.

The Hawkeyes are coming off of a three-set loss to No. 8 Minnesota and will look to improve their disappointing record on Friday night at 7 p.m. in Iowa City. The game will be aired on Big Ten Plus.

Iowa Hawkeyes (4-20, 2-12 Big Ten)

2020-21 record: 4-16 (4-16 Big Ten)

Head coach Vicki Brown is entering her third season as the head coach of the Hawkeyes, and she is the 10th in program history. Brown was a former Illinois standout player and now returns to the Big Ten to replace Michaela Franklin who accepted a head coaching job at Clemson. She has led Iowa to back-to-back 4-16 conference finishes, picking up wins over Indiana, Rutgers, Northwestern, and Michigan State last season.

Brown and the Hawkeyes are off to another rough start this year, with a conference record of 2-12 and an overall record of 4-20. Iowa needs this win against Maryland if it wants to make a late-season run.

Players to know

Courtney Buzzerio, senior outside hitter, 6-foot-5, No. 2 — Buzzerio has started nearly every match for the Hawkeyes over the last three years, and has finished first or second on the team in kills and aces in each of those years. She had a spectacular junior year, earning AVCA All-North Region Honorable Mention and First Team All-Big Ten honors for the first time in program history since Sara Meyermann in 2001. Buzzerio is currently second in the Big Ten in kills per set (4.03) and fourth in the Big Ten points per set (4.44).

Bailey Ortega, sophomore setter, 5-foot-9, No. 12 — Ortega started all but two matches last season as a Freshman and has been a reliable piece for this Hawkeyes offense. She is first on the team in assists (658), fourth in digs (143), and sixth in service aces (9).

Hannah Clayton, senior middle blocker, 6-foot-2, No. 18 — Clayton was selected for her first-ever Academic All-Big Ten honors last year and is currently third all-time in hitting percentage (.288) and ninth all-time in blocks (306) for Iowa. This season, she leads the team in hitting percentage (.290) and blocks (67) and is third in kills (160).

Strength

Experience. Iowa only has one freshman starter, outside hitter Addie Vanderweide, and the rest are either seniors or have started multiple matches in the past. The Hawkeyes have experience and they know how to keep their composure in high-pressure moments.

Weakness

Offense at the service line. The Hawkeyes have simply been underwhelming this season on the offensive end. Iowa is 12th in the Big Ten in both kills (12.19) and hitting percentage (.196), which won’t fare well against Maryland’s elite defense at the net.

Three things to watch

1. Can the Terps take advantage of a favorable offensive matchup? Maryland has struggled on the offensive end recently, recording below a .130 hitting percentage in each of its last three matches, but the Hawkeyes are by no means a stifling defensive team. Iowa ranks dead last in the Big Ten in both opponent hitting percentage (.277) and opponent kills per set (13.49), so the Terps should be able to dominate.

2. Can Buzzerio be slowed down? The Terps have had their fair share of problems against elite outside hitters as over the span of six sets against Maryland, Michigan’s Jess Mruzik and Paige Jones combined for 56 kills on a .336 hitting percentage. Buzzerio is certainly elite and the Terps will have to pay extra close attention to her if they want to pull this one out.

3. Can the Terps get back on track? Maryland has now lost three games in a row and simply isn’t performing well enough to make the NCAA Tournament. If the Terps want a chance at postseason play, they will need to make a late-season run that starts with a win over Iowa on Saturday night.