A three-week stretch of Wednesday/Saturday matches is over as Maryland volleyball hosts two top-10 opponents this weekend in College Park: No. 6 Minnesota on Friday and No. 4 Wisconsin on Saturday.
It’s been a rough two weeks for the Terps, who have lost their last three matches, all straight-set losses. One of those was to the Badgers, who dominated them in Madison, Wisconsin, last Wednesday.
Maryland has fallen into a run of bad form in recent weeks, going 1-4 in Big Ten play since Oct. 19 — all four of those losses ending in straight sets, three of which against ranked opposition.
This is Maryland’s toughest part of conference play by far, facing two top-10 opponents this weekend. After Saturday, Maryland will have played five of its last six matches against top-10 teams.
No. 6 Minnesota (17-3, 11-1 Big Ten) — 7 p.m. Friday
The two teams haven’t played each other yet, through the Golden Gophers have gotten the best of the Terps since joining the Big Ten. In their last meeting, Minnesota won in four sets in College Park, though Maryland had a chance early, winning the first set.
So far this season, the Golden Gophers are hitting .261 as a team, fourth-best in the conference, but they lead the conference in categories on the attack and on defense.
Minnesota leads the Big Ten with 14.14 kills per set and 16.75 digs per set, are second with 13.25 assists per set and third with a .175 opponent hitting percentage. The Golden Gophers are well on their way to another long NCAA Tournament run.
Players to know
Stephanie Samedy, junior opposite, No. 10. Samedy is the leading attacker on Minnesota this season, hitting .245 with a team-leading 249 kills, averaging 3.51 kills per set. Her 60 total blocks are third on the team, so she will have a big impact on Friday.
Regan Pittman, redshirt junior middle blocker, No. 21. Pittman is not only one of Minnesota’s featured hitters, hitting a team-leading .358 with 172 kills this season, but she’s also the leading blocker on the Golden Gophers. She has 99 total blocks so far, leading the conference with 1.39 blocks per set.
CC McGraw, sophomore libero/defensive specialist, No. 7. McGraw leads Minnesota with 275 digs this season, including a season-high 32 digs against No. 21 Illinois on Oct. 19. Her 4.37 digs per set are also third in the conference.
No. 4 Wisconsin (16-4, 12-0 Big Ten) - 6 p.m. Saturday
The Badgers know Maryland well this season and have continued their perfect stretch in conference play — now 12-0 in the Big Ten. Wisconsin leads the conference and is fourth in the country, hitting .294 as a team.
They showed it against the Terps, hitting .365 in the match, nearly out-killing Maryland by 20. In its last four matches, Wisconsin has lost one set, winning three of the four matches in straight sets.
Before Maryland, the Badgers do have a tough test ahead of them in Ohio State, who took Minnesota to five sets last Wednesday and took down the Terps in straight sets last Saturday.
Players to know
Dana Rettke, junior middle blocker, No. 16. The 6’8 Rettke dominated the Terps last Wednesday, hitting an error-free .654 with 17 kills. She’s currently second in the Big Ten, hitting .425 and her 3.87 kills per set are third in the conference. Rettke also leads the team with 79 total blocks.
Danielle Hart, redshirt sophomore middle blocker, No. 18. Hart, not one of the highest-kill attackers on the team, is second on the team with a .307 hitting percentage. She hit .600 with six kills against Maryland and her 76 total blocks rank second on the Badgers.
Tiffany Clark, senior libero, No. 17. Clark is Wisconsin’s leader in digs with 250, averaging 3.68 digs per set. She had 10 against the Terps and will be heavily relied upon on Wisconsin’s back line on Saturday.
Three things to watch
1. Can Maryland end its losing skid? It’s going to take a full team effort for the Terps to pull out a set against either the Golden Gophers or Badgers this weekend and a near-perfect effort to win, but Maryland has shown it earlier this season against Penn State on the road.
2. Will the Terps be able to contain Dana Rettke? Rettke torched the Terps last week with 17 kills, leading all scorers, averaging over five kills a set in the match. Maryland has seen her once, but will the Terps be able to contain her this time around is the question for Saturday.
3. How will the Terps fare with a full week of practice? Maryland finally has a full week of practice after three rough weeks of having to travel mid-week and over the weekend. The Terps have the benefit of playing at home and having more days of practice in a row before the weekend’s matches.