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Maryland volleyball vs Michigan State preview

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The Terps dropped their first match of Big Ten play on Wednesday and are looking bounce back.

Photo by Maddie Kyler / Maryland Athletics

Maryland volleyball is traveling to East Lansing, Michigan, to face off against Michigan State for its first road match in conference play Saturday.

The Terps had a disappointing opening to their Big Ten schedule, falling in four sets at home to Ohio State Wednesday. Despite out-hitting the Buckeyes, Maryland was inconsistent in the serve-and-pass and allowed too much space on the defensive side, giving Ohio State plenty of opportunities to pounce for easy kills.

Michigan State has given Maryland all types of trouble in the past, as the Spartans are currently 9-0 all-time against the Terps. The closest match between the two came last season, a Terps 3-2 home loss in October.

Michigan State (9-2, 0-1 Big Ten) - Saturday, 8 p.m.

Like the Terps, the Spartans are coming into this match winless in conference play — they lost their Big Ten opener in straight sets at No. 5 Penn State on Wednesday night.

However, Michigan State has a lot of nonconference momentum entering Saturday, as it went 3-1 against Power Five conferences, defeating Duke, North Carolina and Auburn. The Spartans lost just two sets in those three victories.

Statistically, Michigan State isn’t a flashy team but is fairly balanced on attack and defense. Seven different Spartans have double-digit kills and six have at least 40. The team is also hitting .267 this season, compared to a .249 mark for Maryland.

Spartan opponents are hitting .144, while Maryland’s have a .164 hitting percentage. Michigan State has have averaged 11.7 assists per set, 12.6 digs per set and 1.2 reception errors per set — all three are better than Maryland heading into Saturday night’s match.

Players to know

Meredith Norris, junior outside hitter, No. 3. Norris leads the Spartans with 107 kills, averaging 3.45 kills per set. That’s just 0.02 better than Maryland’s leading attacker, Erika Pritchard. Norris has recorded double-digit kills in seven of the nine matches she’s played in this season.

Jamye Cox, junior defensive specialist/libero, No. 4. Cox is the stalwart of the Spartans defense, racking up a team-leading 156 digs this season. However, she had a season-low seven digs in Michigan State’s straight-set loss to No. 5 Penn State on Wednesday.

Audrey Alford, graduate student setter, No. 2. Alford has been consistent this season, leading Michigan State with 190 assists and 5.76 assists per set. She’s recorded 15 assists or more in all but one match this season and had a season-high 26 assists against Tennessee earlier this month.

Three things to watch

  1. Can Maryland beat the Spartans? Right now, the Terps are winless in nine matches against the Spartans. Despite their closest effort being a five-set home loss last season, Michigan State has had Maryland’s number since joining the Big Ten.
  2. Who will be hungrier to win? Both teams are winless in the Big Ten through one match each. Maryland needs the win more to get back on track after starting the season 8-5, and this game will be crucial if the Terps want to make the NCAA Tournament. The Spartans go into double-digits with a win.
  3. How will Erika Pritchard and Rebekah Rath factor into Saturday’s match? The two have been Maryland’s top-two attackers this season, with a combined 326 kills. However, against Ohio State, the two combined for 14 kills, nine attack errors and hit .096 in the match. They need to be on their A-game if Maryland wants to walk out of East Lansing with a win.