Maryland volleyball will rematch Iowa on the main floor of Xfinity Center on Friday as the opening act for basketball’s Maryland Madness. It is a chance for the Terps to pick up their first Big Ten victory of the season before No. 2 Nebraska comes to College Park on Sunday.
Iowa (14-4, 4-2) is the only unranked Big Ten team the Terps have faced so far. In late September, the Hawkeyes handled Maryland (8-10, 0-6) with ease in Iowa City in a straight-sets win that set the tone for its four-match unbeaten streak.
Here’s what troubled the Terps in their loss a few weeks ago:
1. 24 errors last time against Iowa was too many — though one implosive set of 13 errors was the majority of that number. The Terps have done a better job limiting errors lately, keeping them in matches longer. Maryland has won at least one set in the past three matches, with no more than 10 errors in any of those sets.
2. More consistency is needed in terms of hitting percentage. Besides Ashlyn MacGregor’s near-perpetual solid percentages, including a .333 last time against Iowa, the Terps struggled making the most of their attacks against the Hawkeyes. They have improved over the last two weeks since that visit to Iowa, though. Gia Milana has seen improvement with her hitting, with percentages well above .200 in two of her last three games, and a career-high 21 kills against Michigan State. The improvement in setting is also key for the attack, with Taylor Smith posting 35 or more assists in her past three matches.
3. Maryland should dominate the blocking game. But the Terps didn’t in their last outing. In fact, despite having the second-best blocker in the Big Ten in MacGregor, Maryland is up-and-down in its blocking game. Iowa is second-worst in the Big Ten with 1.88 blocks per set, while the Terps boast a 2.77 clip. In Iowa City, the Hawkeyes stuck with Maryland, as the teams finished even with seven blocks apiece. Against Michigan last Friday, 15 total blocks displayed where Maryland can be as a team, but only five on Saturday against Michigan State calls for a better showing at home.
Iowa’s coming in fresh off a big win, taking down then-No. 17 Purdue 3-2 last Friday, but the draw of Maryland Madness should create an intimidating home court advantage. Traditionally, volleyball has had a good showing when playing on Xfinity Center’s main court, where a record attendance of 4,522 came to watch the Terps in 2014.
Following three respectable losses against ranked teams, Maryland could be on its way towards its first Big Ten win of the season.