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Maryland volleyball weekend preview: Illinois and Indiana

The Terps are looking to start Big Ten play on a high note.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics.

It’s safe to say that Maryland volleyball had its best weekend of the season at the Cavalier Classic in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The Terps went 3-0, and they didn’t just win every game — they dominated. They remained undefeated in Friday games this season, beating Mercer and East Carolina in a combined seven sets to quickly move to 2-0 on the weekend. Then, the Terps matched up against DMV rival Virginia on Saturday and won in three sets. This was the first Saturday game that the team has won all season, finally breaking their 0-3 slump and moving to 9-3 overall after all its nonconference games.

To start Big Ten play, Maryland will travel to Urbana-Champaign to take on the Illinois Fighting Illini on Friday at 9 p.m. Then, they will come back to College Park and play Indiana in a 1 p.m. matinee on Sunday.


Illinois Fighting Illini (5-5)

Head coach Chris Tamas has been a winning presence for the Fighting Illini over his five seasons as head coach, leading the team to four NCAA Tournament appearances. Last year, they lost to Big Ten opponent Nebraska in the team’s third game. Despite not being ranked this season, nine of the 12 players on the rosters are returners, so there’s hope that the team can make another NCAA Tournament run in 2022.

Player to watch

Junior outside hitter Raina Terry is putting up the numbers that a starting outside hitter should. She is first on the team in kills and service aces, making her one of the most important contributors to the Illinois offense. She has also led the team in kills for the last two seasons, so she’s someone that Maryland head coach Adam Hughes should definitely gameplan for.

Indiana Hoosiers (7-5)

Head coach Steve Aird has only had one winning season during his tenure in Bloomington, which was his first campaign five years ago. Since then, the Hoosiers have been struggling to find their footing in a tough Big Ten conference. But, they now find themselves two games above .500 with a chance at a winning season. It’ll be tough, but Aird will try to navigate his team through the rest of their schedule and make a run at the Big Ten Tournament.

Player to watch

Junior middle blocker Savannah Kjolhede may not be the most prolific offensive player for the Hoosiers, but she’s definitely the most balanced. She is averaging just 1.78 kills per set, but doing so with a .390 hitting percentage. Kjolhede is also the leader on the team in blocks, averaging .95 blocks per set this season. She remains second on the team in points scored this season, making her an impactful Hoosier in the middle.

Three things to watch

1. Will blocks help Maryland win in conference play? The Terps currently have four of the five players with the most blocks in the Big Ten, and the team currently leads the country in blocks per set for the third year in a row. Last year, they also finished leading the NCAA in blocks per set, and were 7-13 in conference games. Even though the defense seems like it’s there, will Maryland’s offense have enough scoring to win games if the defense does its job?

2. Can Sam Csire stay hot after last weekend? Junior outside hitter Sam Csire has been the Terps top source of offense this season. She is coming off of being named the MVP of the Cavalier Classic after she had 35 kills, 25 digs, seven blocks and two service aces in the tournament. She led the team in kills in two out of the three games. This season, she leads her squad in kills per set averaging 3.30. She’s also been doing fine on the other end, with her 85 digs second best on the team. The question is: can she keep up these numbers in conference play?

3. Will Maryland pick up wins against weaker conference opponents? The Big Ten is not an easy volleyball conference, but there are definitely drop-offs among some teams talent-wise. Both of the teams Maryland plays this weekend have more losses than the Terps, and beating both opponents is important when looking at who they play next. Next weekend, they matchup against Michigan State (9-2) before taking on the No. 3 team in the country in Nebraska. The Terps will hope to have a few conference wins under their belt before taking on some of the top teams in the league.