Maryland volleyball travels back home after a gritty five-set win at Northwestern on Wednesday as No. 8 Penn State comes to the main floor of the Xfinity Center on Saturday night.
After an 0-3 start in conference play, the Terps are 4-2 in their last six matches. And with a tough five-match stretch ahead, four of which against top-10 teams, Wednesday’s win was big to stay in the hunt.
Penn State is a familiar foe to the Terps, who took the Nittany Lions to five sets in State College on Oct. 11. It was the first time in nearly 40 years the program won a set on the road against Penn State, let alone two. This time around, Maryland wants to finish the upset.
Penn State (15-3, 8-1 Big Ten) - Saturday, 7 p.m.
Since the five set victory over Maryland, the Nittany Lions have rattled off four consecutive wins, dropping just three sets in total. They are coming off a close five-set win over No. 17 Illinois, having to come back from a 2-0 deficit to win the match.
That, plus traveling to Maryland benefits the Terps, but the Nittany Lions have been consistent the season. Penn State’s lone loss in conference play was a four-set road loss at then-No. 13 Wisconsin.
Maryland will present a challenge after what transpired in State College, but with game film on the Terps, it'll be interesting to see how aggressive Penn State is out of the gate.
Players to know
Jonni Parker, sophomore right side hitter, No. 9. Parker was tied for the team lead in kills against the Terps on Oct. 11 with 13, hitting .216 in the match. She was third on the team with 11 digs in the match and is still the team leader in kills with 221.
Gabby Blossom, sophomore setter, No. 13. Blossom has been the catalyst for Penn State’s offense, including against the Terps, where she led the team with 43 assists. Her 692 total assists and 10.98 assists per set are third and second in the conference, respectively.
Kendall White, senior defensive specialist, No. 3. White’s 256 total digs and 4.06 digs per set this season are both fifth in the Big Ten. Her 21 digs against the Terps led the team and she will be relied upon heavily against Maryland’s attack on Saturday.
Three things to watch
1. Will Maryland benefit from home-court advantage? This is the first time this season Maryland is moving to the main floor of Xfinity Center. It’s a new environment, but if the Terps can capitalize off the bigger crowd, an upset is in the cards.
2. Was the Oct. 11 match a fluke for the Terps? Maryland came out aggressive in State College and played Penn State tough. It was arguably the best performance from the team this season, despite the loss. If Maryland wants another chance to win, it has to replicate that performance from two weeks ago.
3. How will Penn State come out after Wednesday’s match? It took a tremendous effort for the Nittany Lions to come back against the Fighting Illini, at home nonetheless. If they come out tired, Maryland has a chance to steal a match.