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Maryland volleyball vs. Michigan preview (part two)

The Wolverines swept the Terps in October.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

After sweeping Rutgers for the second time this year, Maryland volleyball took on No. 8 Purdue. Maryland failed to build upon its Rutgers win, falling to the Boilermakers in three sets. The Terps had a slow start to the match, losing the first set 25-15, but competed in each of the last three sets.

Outside hitter Paula Neciporuka had herself a day contributing in all aspects of the game. She finished the match with 11 kills, seven digs, three service aces, and one block. Setter Sydney Dowler continues to impress, contributing with 36 assists, 10 digs, and three blocks.

Michigan is coming off of a four-set loss to Penn State. Michigan won the first set 25-22, but the Nittany Lions took the next three, with each set being decided by three points or less.

Maryland’s Sunday afternoon game against the Wolverines will be aired on B1G+ at 1 p.m.

What happened last time

These two teams met for the first time this season on Oct. 15. Coming into the match, Maryland swept Indiana, but were on a four-game losing streak prior to the win.

Michigan and Maryland were both fighting for a spot in the top-25 so this match held that much more weight.

The Terps started out hot in the first set, jumping to an 8-4 lead. Michigan would fight all the way back before ripping off a 13-2 run to take set one 25-15.

The second set was very back and forth until an 8-1 Wolverine run put them up by seven. The Terps had a response, however, exploding for a 10-3 run to tie the set at 24. After Maryland took a 26-25 lead, Michigan rallied for a 3-0 run to steal the second set.

It was Michigan who took the early lead in the third set, going up 13-6. Down 19-11, the Terps erupted for a 6-0 run to cut the lead to two. Maryland was unable to make up any more ground, falling to the Wolverines in three sets, with a 25-20 third set loss.

Neciporuka was one of the lone bright spots for the Terps, finishing the night with a team-high nine kills, two blocks, and a .290 hitting percentage.

What’s happened since

After suffering the loss to Michigan, the Terps found their stride, winning the next three games. They defeated Michigan State in four sets twice and also swept Rutgers.

Maryland looked great in those three games but fell flat against Penn State following the second Michigan State game. The Terps took the Nittany Lions all the way to five sets in their first match but didn’t look like themselves in the second, losing in three sets.

The Terps then played Rutgers again, resulting in the same outcome, a three-set Maryland victory. Maryland is now coming off of a four-set loss to Purdue on Friday night in which it held its own in each of the last three sets.

Michigan has struggled recently, losing four of its last six. First, the Wolverines were swept by No. 3 Wisconsin but bounced back with a win over Indiana. Michigan then lost two straight against Illinois and No. 9 Ohio State.

Michigan has split its last two matches with a win over Iowa, 3-0, and then a loss to No. 15 Penn State.

The Terps come into the match sitting at 18-7 while the Wolverines have a 13-9 record.

Three things to watch

1. Will Milan Gomillion be the difference-maker? Star freshman libero Milan Gomillion was inactive when Maryland first faced off against Michigan, but she is good to go for the rematch. Gomillion is first in the Big Ten in digs per set (4.76) and is a massive part of the Terps defense. She will provide an immense amount of value, but will it be enough to take down the Wolverines?

2. Can the Terps contain Jess Mruzik this time? Outside hitter Jess Mruzik is currently 10th in the Big Ten in kills per set (3.55) and is having a phenomenal sophomore campaign. Despite Maryland’s swarming defense, Mruzik still lit up the Terps for 17 kills on a .414 hitting percentage. If Mruzik shows the same level of production and efficiency in this one, the Terps may have to wait until next season to defeat Michigan.

3. Can the Terps avoid a winless weekend? Maryland went head-to-head against No. 8 Purdue on Friday in which it lost in four sets. Although the final outcome didn’t fall in the Terps' favor, there is much to be happy about. Maryland picked up the pace in the last three sets, and if it played like that all game, the results may have been different. The Terps lost in three sets to Michigan last time the two teams played, but Maryland has definitely improved as a team since, so fans should be in for a good one.