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Maryland volleyball 2023 season preview

Head coach Adam Hughes’ team returns many of its key players from a season ago.

Maryland volleyball’s season begins this weekend at The Canes Classic.
Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics.

With several of its top players returning from last season, Maryland volleyball will look to make its presence felt in a loaded Big Ten conference that saw nearly half its teams make the 2022 NCAA Tournament.

The Terps went 9-3 in non-conference play last season after going undefeated in such matches the previous season. However, the Terps couldn’t ride that momentum in conference play, as they went just 7-13 against Big Ten opponents for the second year in a row.

2023 poses yet another difficult schedule for Maryland, with six of its conference opponents (Wisconsin, Nebraska, Minnesota, Penn State, Ohio State and Purdue) all ranked in the preseason AVCA top 25.

Key losses

Outside hitter Rainelle Jones highlights the Terps’ departures. The program’s career leader in blocks and blocks assists graduated after five years with the program.

Last season, she was fourth on the team with 163 kills and 255 points while leading the group with 162 block assists. She started all but two matches for Maryland and was a key cog in her 109 sets played.

After a phenomenal freshman season, Milan Gomillion continued her dominance in her sophomore campaign. As a defensive specialist and libero, Gomillion led the team with 480 digs (4.03 per set) that ranked her sixth in the Big Ten. Offensively, she was second on the team with 32 service aces. Playing in all 119 sets over 32 matches, her production will be deeply missed following her decision to transfer to Virginia.

Another defensive specialist who made an impact was Lexy Finnerty, who did so throughout her four seasons with the Terps. Over 110 sets last season, Finnerty racked up 183 digs, the fourth-most on the team. She also accumulated 18 service aces. Her departure, coupled with that of Gomillion, leaves a large defensive hole for the Terps to patch.

Key returners

The Terps return 10 key players from last year’s squad with hopes to build on another positive season.

Anastasia Russ was a force to be reckoned with at the net in 2022. The 6-foot-5 middle blocker had the third-most total blocks in the nation with 182. Additionally, her 22 solo blocks were the most on the team, twice as many as her next closest teammate. Just as dangerous on the offensive side of the ball, Russ was third on the team with 205 kills and second in hitting percentage. She missed just one set last season and will look to continue her dominance in her second year with the team.

If Russ is Maryland’s thunder, then Sam Csire is its lightning. The only Terp to play in every set last season, she led the Terps with 401 kills. Csire also flashed on the defensive end with 231 digs and 69 total blocks. Going into her senior year, Csire is poised to continue to make a huge impact for the Terps.

Setter Sydney Dowler returns to Maryland after being one of the best at the position in the Big Ten last season. She ranked fifth in the conference with 1,012 assists and 40 service aces. She was also second on the team with 282 digs.

While Russ made headlines by leading the nation in total blocks, outside hitter Laila Ricks racked up 122 total blocks of her own. Russ and Ricks will now look to make Maryland the best blocking team in the Big Ten for the fourth straight year.

Another outside hitter, sophomore Laila Ivey returns after finishing second on the team in kills last season with 285. Now, with a year of experience under her belt, expect to see her more in the starting lineup.

Key additions

The Terps bring in two transfers and four freshmen to round out its 2023 squad after losing five players from last seasons.

Samantha Schnitta joins Maryland after three years at Ole Miss. The senior pin hitter appeared in 56 matches for the Rebels and managed 432 kills in 191 sets played. Despite only starting in four of 18 matches last year, she registered 10-plus kills in five straight matches at a point.

Joining Schnitta as the only other transfer is former Mississippi State defensive specialist Lilly Gunter. Gunter thrived in her three years with the Bulldogs, finishing in the top 10 in the conference in digs each season. She was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Week twice last year, and four times overall during her tenure.

The Terps brought in two liberos in its most recent recruiting class: Alex McGillivray and Jonna Spohn. The California native from Torrey Pines High School, McGillivray comes to Maryland as a three-time Redondo Power Classic All-Tournament Team selection. Joining her at the position from Ohio, Spohn was a 2022 AVCA All-American and All-Region selection. With over 1,300 career digs at Olentangy High School, Spohn looks to bring her winning ways to College Park.

Rounding out the class is outside hitter Sydney Bryant and middle blocker Eva Rhorbach. Bryant joins the Terps as a Prep Volleyball Class Top 150 Prospect, a two-time VISAA state champion, a three-time ISL AA champion and a two-time team captain during her four-year run with the Flint Hill High School varsity volleyball team. Rhorbach, the second Californian to join the team this season, was a top-25 prospect in the class of 2023 according to Prep Volleyball. During her time at La Costa Canyon High School, Rhorbach was a first-team All-CIF selection, a first-team All-Coastal League selection and a 2021 MaxPreps Preseason All-American second-team selection.

Looking forward

Maryland will begin its season down in Florida for The Canes Classic, where it will take on Miami, FIU and Lamar over the course of two days.

After finishing its non-conference slate, which features four tournaments, the Terps will open Big Ten play on Sep. 22 at home against No. 16 Purdue.

Four of the Terps’ matches then on out will feature teams ranked in the preseason top 10: Wisconsin (Oct. 15), Nebraska (Oct. 27), Minnesota (Oct. 6) and Penn State (Nov. 22).

They’ll round out the regular season on Nov. 24 against Rutgers.