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Maryland volleyball preview: No. 14 Penn State and Rutgers

The Terps look to close the season on a positive note.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics.

Maryland volleyball will face No. 14 Penn State for the first time this season before taking on Rutgers to end its 2023 campaign. Last year, the Terps finished the season with a 16-16 record and have a chance to improve upon that this year, currently sitting at 16-14.

Both games will be played in College Park, where the Terps are 4-9 this season.

Maryland will take on the Nittany Lions on Wednesday at 7 p.m. and Rutgers on Friday at 6 p.m. Both matches will be streamed on Big Ten Plus.

No. 14 Penn State Nittany Lions (19-8, 13-5 Big Ten)

Katie Schumacher-Cawley is finishing her second year as the head coach of Penn State. A two-time All-American as a player with the Nittany Lions, Schumacher-Cawley was part of the program’s 1999 national championship team.

In her first season at the helm, Schumacher-Cawley led Penn State to the NCAA Tournament for the 42nd straight year. The Nittany Lions have four wins over ranked teams this season, including a recent stunner over No. 2 Wisconsin.

Player to watch

Jess Mruzik, senior outside hitter, No. 9 — The two-time All-Big Ten first-team selection has continued to dominate in her final season in State College. Her 445 kills this season rank fourth in the Big Ten and 26th in the country. She has recorded 25 or more kills in three matches.

Strength

Defense. The Nittany Lions lead the Big Ten with 298.5 total blocks, which ranks No. 6 in the nation. Senior middle blocker Allie Holland’s 136 blocks rank top-25 in the country. Penn State is also holding opponents to a .180 hitting percentage.

Weakness

Service aces. Penn State is the worst team in the conference when it comes to service aces. While not necessarily a game-changer, it could be a problem the Terps can exploit.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights (10-18, 2-16)

What happened last time

About two months ago, Maryland took down Rutgers on the road, marking the Terps’ first win in a Big Ten road opener since joining the conference in 2014. Maryland hit an impressive .333 as a team, its first time hitting over .300 in a conference match since 2021. Three Terps recorded 10 or more kills, with senior pin hitter Samantha Schnitta leading the way with 16.

Maryland has won four straight against Rutgers.

What’s happened since

Rutgers has continued its free fall in Big Ten play, managing just two conference wins. It also ranks near the bottom of the Big Ten in almost every statistical category.

Three things to watch

1. How will the Terps finish? Maryland has an opportunity to better its 16-16 record from last year with one win in its final two matches.

2. Can Maryland shock Penn State? Maryland is 0-7 against Penn State under head coach Adam Hughes. The Terps have one ranked conference win this season.

3. Who will step up? With the seniors playing in their last matches with Maryland, look to see if any younger players step up and make an impact to provide a glimpse into next season.