Despite losing to Florida Gulf Coast on Saturday, Maryland volleyball showed a lot of promise in the Maryland Invite last weekend.
Going 2-1, players like freshman outside hitter Laila Ivey and redshirt junior middle blocker Anastasia Russ were able to make an impact in their first games in the red and white. Ivey contributed 28 kills in 10 sets, and Russ had 11 blocks over 10 sets — the third-most on the team.
Now, the Terps travel to New York to take part in the Stony Brook Tournament, as they hope to play lights-out and redeem themselves after the team’s first loss of the 2022 season.
Maryland plays two games on Friday, one at 12 p.m. against Georgetown and a second at 6:30 p.m. against Stony Brook. On Saturday, the Terps face off against South Florida at 10:30 a.m.
Georgetown Hoyas (0-3)
Head coach David Heller is at the helm of a program that hasn’t had an above-.500 record since 2018. Even though it’s early in this season, it looks like the Hoyas may be in one of those positions yet again. After going 7-22 last season, the Hoyas have already started off 0-3, losing all of their games in the DC Challenge. Georgetown only won a single set all weekend — not the best way to start nonconference play. The Hoyas will hope that Heller can steer the ship around and finish this season better than last.
Player to watch
Sophomore outside hitter Mary Grace Goyena. Even though it’s just her second season as a Hoya, it’s clear that Goyena will be a mainstay in the starting lineup. As a freshman last season, Goyena led her team in total kills with 268 and was the only player with more than 200. She also managed to put up the most points on the team — 297 — while also being only one of two players to play triple-digit sets. Already leading her team in kills per set this season with 3.20, Goyena is an offensive weapon the Terps should watch out for.
Stony Brook (2-0)
This program made the NCAA Tournament just four seasons ago, and head coach Kristin Belzung is looking to do it again this year. After finishing one game under .500 the last two seasons, the team is looking to turn it around this year and has already started the season 2-0. Wins against Quinnipiac and Fordham were big to start off this season on a positive note. It will be interesting to see how the Seawolves handle themselves against a legitimate Big Ten opponent like Maryland.
Player to watch
Freshman outside hitter Cali Moore. As a freshman on a team with pretty low expectations, Moore had an opportunity to assert herself early on in the season. So far, she has done just that, leading the team with 29 kills and 3.63 kills per set through eight sets. Even though she might have to improve her .220 hitting percentage, Moore has looked like the Seawolves’ most dangerous weapon through three games.
South Florida (1-2)
It’s been a rough go for the Bulls and head coach Jolene Shepardson over the last few years. The team hasn’t had a winning season since their head coach was hired in 2020. In the team’s own USF Opening Weekend Invite last weekend, they went 1-2, beating only William and Mary. Shepardson, who played for USF, will look to try and improve on their poor start to the season this weekend.
Player to watch
Junior outside hitter Marta Cvitkovic. In her freshman season, Cvitkovic made the AAC All-Conference first team after contributing 214 kills and 3.69 kills per set during a COVID-19-ridden season. Since then, she’s still arguably been the Bulls’ best offensive player, putting up 373 kills last season, which would have been the second-most in the Maryland lineup. Although she’s averaging just 2.42 kills per set so far this year, the season is young, and Cvitkovic has shown that she can lead this team before.
Three things to watch
1. Rainelle Jones has been her usual self. It only took a few days for Maryland’s star middle blocker to receive recognition from her conference, winning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week. The collegiate leader in blocks per set last season, she started off 2022 averaging a monster 2.56 blocks per set at the Maryland Invite. Stat lines like this are nothing new for Jones, so it won’t be surprising if she keeps playing like the person heavily responsible for making Maryland the best blocking team in the country the past two seasons.
2. Can the Terps bounce back from Saturday’s loss? Even though Florida Gulf Coast was an NCAA Tournament team last year, to lose at home was definitely a blow for this squad that didn’t lose a single nonconference match last season. Junior outside hitter Sam Csire thought that at the end of the day, the little things need improvement.
“They were a really good team, and we were able to take a set from them, but I think just fixing up those small little tweaks in practice [will help],” Csire said.
Head coach Adam Hughes believes that this loss has actually had a motivational effect on the team. “You never want to lose but… I think we learned a lot, and I see them more driven by that not necessarily as a set back,” he said.
3. Will the offense make strides as the season continues? It’s clear that Maryland does not need to do much work to improve on blocking, but that might not mean that the team’s defense does not need to improve. Hughes thinks that the key for this team’s defense is to be a little bit more offensive-minded in order to win games.
“If you’re gonna play a field possession game in football, you’ve got a chance of having points scored on you. If you can score a lot, then other team’s don’t have a chance to score on you,” Hughes said.
He also mentioned that his team is a little bit faster on offense this year, which he hopes will help them improve.