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Maryland volleyball 2022 season preview

Head coach Adam Hughes’ squad begins its season tonight.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics.

As the leaves wait to turn brown and another NCAA volleyball season awaits, Maryland volleyball is in a new position compared to recent times. The team is looking to build off its winningest season since 2010.

After going undefeated in nonconference tournaments to begin the 2021 season, the team was starting to look really good. But when they began to face off against tough Big Ten opponents week after week, the team struggled to maintain relevance, going 7-13 against conference opponents and finishing the year with a 19-13 record.

The 2022 season looks to be another where the Terps will be facing a tough Big Ten slate that includes Nebraska, which is ranked as the No. 1 team in the country in the AVCA Division I Preseason Coaches Poll.

So now, coming off the back of last season, Adam Hughes and his squad are facing more expectations than ever. Can Maryland improve further in 2022?

Key losses

With much of the same team back, only a few experienced upperclassmen won’t be returning from last year’s squad.

Middle blocker Hannah Thompson was one of only five players to record triple-digit kills for last year’s Terps. She impressed even more on the defensive end, putting up the second-most solo blocks on the team with 11. She also managed to get triple-digit blocks last season with an even 100, a presence that had an impact over her 91 sets.

Kaylee Thomas averaged the second-most digs per set on the team last year (2.61) as a defensive specialist. While playing in every single match for the team in 2021, Thomas made most of her impact off of the bench, only starting 12 games. Her impact off the bench will be missed as the Terps will try and fill the void at defensive specialist.

Outside hitter Paula Neciporuka started all but two games for the Terps last season. She was second on the team in kills with 316 and had the second most service aces with 29 in 2021. She is a big loss for a squad that will look to fill the offensive void from the outside this season.

Returning players

Maryland returns a lot of players this year that look to build upon some of their impressive performances in the red and white.

Most importantly, graduate middle blocker Rainelle Jones will return for what is likely her last season in College Park following an incredible 2021 season. Last year, she averaged 1.73 blocks per set, the most in the country, along with 1.94 kills per set and a .266 hitting percentage. She’s helped Maryland become the best blocking team in the Big Ten for two years straight and is looking for a three-peat.

Also returning as a graduate student, defensive specialist Maddie Naumann only appeared in 10 sets during her senior season in College Park. However, she did put up seven digs, an assist and an ace. She’ll look to make her impact felt as an experienced voice on a roster with many underclassmen.

Juniors Laila Ricks, Sydney Dowler and Sam Csire all return for their third season at Maryland.

An outside hitter, Csire led the squad with 3.48 kills per set last season. Also racking up 28 service aces in her sophomore campaign, it’s clear that she is a key offensive piece for Hughes and his staff, who look to keep improving.

Playing alongside Jones at middle blocker last season, Ricks managed to put up the second-most blocks per set on the squad with 1.19. Also chipping in on the offensive end with 1.54 kills per set, Ricks started every match in 2021 and will likely keep her spot this year.

The queen of service aces for Maryland last year, Dowler put up 37 with the nearest other player having just 29. But it wasn’t just offensive production, as Dowler had the third-most digs per set on the squad with 2.53.

Senior defensive specialist Lexy Finnerty is back after averaging 0.51 digs per set last year. Sophomore defensive specialist Milan Gomillion is returning after an impressive freshman campaign that saw her lead the team with 4.76 digs per set in 104 sets played.

Sophomore outside hitter Erin Morrissey, sophomore setter Zoe Huang, sophomore setter Erin Engel, and sophomore middle blocker Ellie Watson return after playing a combined 19 sets last season. They will get a more expanded role on the team in 2022.

Key additions

With a lot of the Maryland team looking similar to last year, there have only been four new additions to the roster. Two freshmen and two transfers are looking to make an impact in College Park.

At middle blocker, redshirt junior Anastasia Russ arrived from the University of Pittsburgh late last year. Even though she wasn’t a starter, Russ still managed to record 15 kills and seven blocks in just 12 sets last season. Standing at six-foot-five, she’ll look to slot in alongside Rainelle Jones this season.

Graduate pin hitter Gem Grishaw is the other transfer, coming over from Temple after leading the Owls in kills and services last year. She also had the second-most kills per set on the squad with 3.09.

Freshman outside hitter Laila Ivey arrives in College Park after a high school career which saw her make the AVCA High School All-America first team. She played varsity all four years at Indian Creek Upper School and was a captain for three of those years. The Annapolis, Maryland native hopes to provide another option at outside hitter after the departure of Paula Neciporuka.

Freshman defensive specialist Ally Williams rounds out the incoming recruiting class. She contributed over 1,000 digs in her career at Oakville High School in St. Louis, Missouri. She provides yet another option for head coach Adam Hughes to look at.

Looking forward

The Terps start the year with four nonconference tournaments, with the first one taking place at the Xfinity Center Pavilion. In the first tournament, they’ll take on tough opponents like Florida Gulf Coast, which went 27-6 last year.

After that, they’ll take on a conference schedule which sees them play four teams currently ranked in the top 10 in’s preseason power rankings.

Looking to raise the bar again this year, Maryland begins the season by playing Rhode Island at home on Aug. 26 at 1 p.m. in the first matchup of the Maryland Invite before taking on Navy that evening at 7 p.m.