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Maryland volleyball vs. No. 8 Purdue preview

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The Terps have won four of their last five games.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

After getting swept by Penn State, Maryland volleyball needed a confidence boost against Rutgers and it got it by defeating the Scarlet Knights in three sets.

Maryland came out flat in the first set as Rutgers jumped out to an early 10-4 lead. The Terps fought all the way back to tie the set at 15, and then eventually win it, 25-19. Maryland dominated the next two sets, winning by a total of 23 points.

Outside hitters Paula Neciporuka and Sam Csire were fantastic in this one for Maryland, combining for 21 kills, 16 digs, five service aces and a .364 hitting percentage. Setter Sydney Dowler continues to play extremely well, recording 30 assists, five kills and a .625 hitting percentage.

Maryland’s next opponent, Purdue, has been a little up and down in conference play, but is fresh off a marquee four-set win over then-No. 2 Wisconsin.

Purdue has produced eight conference wins thus far and will look to make it nine on Friday at 7 p.m. in College Park. The game will air on BTN Plus.

No. 8 Purdue Boilermakers 16-5, (8-4 Big Ten)

2020-21 record: 16-7, (14-6 Big Ten)

Head coach Dave Shondell is in his 19th season as the Boilermakers head coach after joining the staff in 2003. He is one of just three active Big Ten head coaches with at least a .660 winning percentage, and has led Purdue to 15 NCAA Tournament appearances in the last 18 years, advancing to the Sweet 16 in more than half of them.

Shondell and the Boilermakers are set to make another deep run in postseason play with another strong start to the season. Three of its five losses have been to ranked opponents and Purdue has won two in a row.

Players to know

Fifth year outside hitter Caitlyn Newton, 6-foot-1 (No. 4) - Newton has been one of the best outside hitters in the Big Ten over the last three years. During this time she has been selected to two All-Big Ten teams, was an AVCA All-American Honorable mention in 2019 and an AVCA Third Team All-American last season. Newton is having another big year as she ranks fifth in the Big Ten in kills per set (3.81) and eighth in the Big Ten in points per set (4.31). She also leads the team in service aces (16), is fourth in digs (130), and fifth in blocks (38).

Sophomore middle blocker Taylor Trammell, 6-foot-2 (No. 17) - Trammell burst onto the scene last season as a freshman, starting in all 23 matches, earning Big Ten Freshman of the week twice and finishing the season as a VolleyballMag.com All-American Honorable Mention. She has not disappointed in her second year thus far as she is second in the Big Ten in blocks per set (1.40), third on her team in hitting percentage (.324), and fifth on her team in kills (76).

Redshirt senior setter Hayley Bush, 5-foot-10 (No. 2) - Bush got the recognition she deserved last year, earning AVCA All-American Honorable Mention, First Team All-Big Ten, and VolleyballMag.com Third Team All-American. This season, she is seventh in the Big Ten in assists per set (10.12), second on her team in hitting percentage (.360) and digs (199), and sixth in blocks (31).

Strength

Offensive pressure. The Boilermakers are fourth in the Big Ten in hitting percentage (.259), sixth in kills per set (13.05), and first in opponent blocks per set (1.51). Purdue gives up the least amount of blocks in the Big Ten, while Maryland blocks the most so it will be interesting to see how this match plays out.

Weakness

Serves. Purdue is at least mediocre at every statistical category except serving. The Boilermakers rank last in the Big Ten in service aces per set with 1.05, as they do not generate very many points out of the serve.

Three things to watch

1. Taylor Tremell vs. Rainelle Jones. Tremell and Jones are arguably the two best middle blockers in the Big Ten and they face off against each other for the first time on Friday night. The two sit at the top of the Big Ten in blocks per set, with 1.40 and 1.82 respectively, so we should keep a close eye on this matchup as whoever applies more pressure may secure the win for their team.

2. Can the Terps keep up their offensive excellence? Maryland had a rough outing against Penn State, recording only 30 kills on a .130 hitting percentage. The Terps bounced back in a major way against Rutgers, however, totaling 40 kills, a .387 hitting percentage, and only four attacking errors. Maryland will need to have a Rutgers-type performance if they want to take down this stout Purdue squad.

3. Can the Terps prove themselves against a ranked opponent? Maryland is 1-4 against ranked opponents this season, with its only win coming on Sep. 24, its first match of conference play. With Purdue ranked as the No. 8 team in the nation, the Terps have a tremendous opportunity to boost their resume and prove that they aren’t a one-win wonder.