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Maryland volleyball’s 2017 season will be a tough test

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The Terps brought in their best recruiting class ever, but will it be enough?

Maryland Volleyball vs. Penn State

Maryland volleyball secured its best recruiting class for the second consecutive season in 2017, with the nation’s 10th-ranked class including four Under Armour All-Americans. In 2016, the Terps signed their first ever All-American and finished the season with a 12-20 record.

Maryland’s four All-American recruits for 2017 ties them with Big Ten rivals Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Illinois. Maryland struggled against conference foes last season, going 4-16 in conference play the second half of the season. With strong back-to-back recruiting classes, Maryland’s chances of turning around conference play look promising.

Sam Drechsel topped the list of Maryland recruits for the 2017 season. Drechsel ranked 23rd in the nation and made the Under Armor First Team All-American. The other recruits rank close by, with Erika Pritchard ranking 29th according to PrepVolleyball. The newcomers will join sophomore Gia Milana as a part of the strong recruiting seasons under head coach Steve Aird.

The season begins Friday at the Maryland Invite. Maryland will play UMBC, Northeastern, and Temple in the Xfinity Center Pavilion. The competition won’t be fierce, which will allow the Terps to start their season off strong while also getting experience for newer recruits.

The weekends of Sept. 1 and 8, the Terps head to Virginia for the Liberty Invitational and Thunder Invite. Maryland will play Liberty, Elon, and Furman, before facing Toledo, Virginia Tech, and Marshall in the two invite weekends. The Terps should look to ramp up against some of the bigger schools at these invites. Though Maryland’s recruiting class gives it the advantage over some opponents, the Terps can’t drop games like they did last season against Towson.

Maryland begins conference play Sept. 20 in Columbus against Ohio State, ranked 21st at the beginning of the season. Conference play will be a challenge again, as eight of Maryland’s conference opponents begin the season ranked. The Terps will likely need to steal a few on the road and protect the Xfinity Center Pavilion if they hope to earn a tournament bid.

The toughest stretch comes on the road in early November, where they will play Minnesota, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Penn State—ranked fourth, seventh, fifth, and sixth, respectively—all in a row.

With another strong recruiting class, the Terps have increased their odds to win conference games. Even if this season does not see vast improvement, it is safe to assume Aird is building towards challenging Big Ten foes over the next few seasons.

TAKEAWAYS

  • Recruiting begets recruiting. If Maryland’s All-American recruits play well this season, it is all the more likely they will have another great recruiting year. Even if Maryland doesn’t become a powerhouse program this year, the Terps are on the right path.
  • A padded early schedule ups Maryland’s tournament hopes, but it still comes down to conference play. Maryland played poorly against the entirety of the conference last season, with few exceptions. The Terps must play better against familiar opponents. This also means they can’t drop games early against teams they have no business losing to.
  • The key is Milana, who earned an all-conference honorable mention and was unanimously named to the Big Ten’s freshman team. If the high school All-American plays well and takes a leadership role on the team, new teammates are sure to follow suit.