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Maryland volleyball weekend preview: Aztec Classic

The Terps have posted a 2-1 record in both of their previous tournaments.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics.

After starting the season 4-2, Maryland volleyball has shown potential. The Terps have looked phenomenal in some games — others, not so much.

They went 2-1 at the Stony Brook Tournament, with wins against Georgetown and Stony Brook in straight sets. However, South Florida was able to come out on top in a five-set thriller to keep the Terps from a perfect weekend.

Looking to improve on the team’s performances so far, head coach Adam Hughes and company travel to the west coast to take part in the Aztec Classic. They’ll play against San Diego State at 1 p.m. and Sacramento State at 7 p.m. on Friday. Then, on Saturday, the Terps will match up against Arizona at 3 p.m..


San Diego State (2-4)

This season marks the ten-year anniversary of the last time the Aztecs made the NCAA Tournament, and head coach Brent Hiliard hasn’t made much progress in getting the squad back. Since taking over in January of 2020, his team has a record of 16-35. Trying to build a program in a few years is hard, especially when you’re not playing winning volleyball. San Diego State hopes to hold its own this season before getting into conference play.

Player to watch

Sophomore middle blocker Elly Schraeder. Schraeder redshirted last season, and she may still need some time to improve, but it’s clear that she has potential to help on both ends of the floor. On defense, she leads the team in blocks with 21 in 20 sets. On offense, her numbers might not stand out — with 25 kills so far — but her hitting percentage of .250 is promising. She’s been playing well on defense for the Aztecs, and will have to continue that against the Terps.

Sacramento State (2-4)

Over the last 15 years, Sacramento State head coach Ruben Volta has learned what it takes to create a winning squad in the Big Sky conference. With a combined 130-86 record in just over 14 seasons, Volta was the Big Sky Coach of the Year in 2015 and 2017. Coming off of a 16-12 season, the Hornets hope that they can get back to being conference champions this season.

Player to watch

Junior middle blocker Kalani Hayes. Even though Hayes may have just 42 kills, which ranks third on the team, she’s been doing so with an efficient hitting percentage of .384. Her defensive stats aren’t too shabby either, coming up with 1.13 blocks per set to start the season. She was named to the All-Big Sky Conference second team in her freshman and sophomore seasons and is starting off her junior season well. Hayes is a prominent fixture of the Hornets lineup, and Maryland will certainly have to watch out for her.

University of Arizona (4-1)

Head coach Dave Rubio has been leading the Wildcats into battle for over three decades as head coach, and his culture of winning is a big reason for the team’s 4-1 start. He’s a master in the Pac-12 conference, holding the record for most wins among active coaches in the conference with 558. Even though the squad was just a game over .500 last season, it’s clear that the culture could turn things around with the right pieces. With 20 NCAA Tournament appearances under his belt, Rubio will look to continue winning in nonconference play to set his team up for a postseason berth.

Player to watch

Junior outside hitter Jaelyn Hodge. Simply put, Hodge has been the most dangerous offensive player so far for the Wildcats this season. She’s got a team-leading 56 kills and is averaging 3.59 kills per set. She didn’t do it wastefully either, with a hitting percentage of .259. In order to beat Arizona, Maryland has to make sure they know where Hodge is on the hardwood at all times.

Three things to watch

1. Can the Terps win on Saturday? Two tournaments into the 2022 season, head coach Adam Hughes and his squad haven’t managed to win the final game in either event. A loss to Florida Gulf Coast in the Maryland Invitational wasn’t all that shocking, as the team had made the NCAA Tournament last season and was clearly very talented. However, a loss to South Florida last weekend was a slight shocker, and the team has to try and move forward to correct that loss. They will be playing a tough Arizona team on Saturday that has just one loss on the season.

2. Will the Lailas keep it up? Freshman outside hitter Laila Ivey and junior middle blocker Laila Ricks have had promising starts to this season. Ricks was named to the Stony Brook Invitational All-Tournament team last weekend for her standout performances. Most impressively, she tallied 10 kills with a .750 hitting percentage and four service aces against Georgetown. Ivey has been showing out as a newcomer, already tallying the second-most kills per set on the squad with 2.67. Her 62 points are also the second-most on the team, making her presence known as a freshman. As the season goes on, it’ll be interesting to see if they can keep it up.

3. How many more nonconference losses can they afford? Last year, Maryland won every nonconference game to start the year off strong. However, they only finished the year with a 19-13 record after a tough conference schedule. This year, the Big Ten is just as good, with five schools currently ranked in the top 10. With two nonconference losses already, will this early slump spark a loss of hope for the rest of the season?