As Maryland volleyball enters the final leg of their conference season, the Terps are facing not just their toughest opponents, but also a slew of injuries.
Maryland lost Katie Myers to injury during the Maryland Challenge in mid-September. Libero Kelsey Wicinski hasn’t played since the team lost to then-No. 3 Penn State on Oct. 7.
In their place, head coach Steve Aird has relied on his newcomers. Freshman Jada Gardner has had to step up to defend the net after Myers’ injury ended her season. Gardner has recorded 52 kills at a clip of .297 this season, having played in 48 sets.
Samantha Burgio has stepped up as libero in Wicinski’s place. In the four games Burgio has played in Wicinski’s stead, she has averaged 12.5 digs. Though she may not call the plays like Wicinski does, she has stepped up to fill the starter’s big shoes.
Sophomore Gia Milana said that she had reassured Burgio earlier this season her role would expand.
“I was like, ‘Just be patient Burj, like you’re going to have a huge role on this team earlier than you know you are,’” said Milana. “And now, looking at her, she’s working so hard and putting so much work in practice. It’s showing in the games.”
Maryland will still be without Myers and perhaps Wicinski as it closes out the second half of a four-game homestead with games against Indiana and No. 20 Purdue Friday and Sunday.
Maryland swept Indiana in Bloomington in its second Big Ten game in September. While the Terps have won two other games since then, Indiana has only defeated Rutgers, who’s 5-17 this season. The Hoosiers have dropped to 12-10 on the season, after a strong start prior to conference play. The Terps should look out for Kendall Beerman, who leads the Hoosiers in kills despite playing in only 60 of their 80 sets.
Purdue has only lost five games, with four coming against Big Ten powerhouses. The Boilermakers only play against Maryland once this season. Purdue swept Indiana twice in back-to-back games in September. This team has lost on the road only twice, both to ranked teams (Kansas and Minnesota). The Boilermakers’ attack is headed up by Danielle Cuttino and Sherridan Atkinson, who have combined for 513 kills on the season.
After facing Purdue Sunday, a weakened Maryland will face No. 2 Minnesota (19-2), No. 8 Wisconsin (14-5), No. 5 Nebraska (16-4), and No. 1 Penn State (19-1). All on the road. They close out with four games at home in mid-to-late November.
Currently, Maryland needs to win two games to finish at .500, and the Terps have two teams on their schedule they’ve already beaten: Indiana and Northwestern. If they win three games, they’ll end their season above .500. That would not only be a great turnaround from a 12-win season a year prior, but could combine with their RPI (currently No. 45) to make them tournament hopefuls.