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Maryland volleyball weekend preview: No. 7 Minnesota

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The Terps will host No. 7 Minnesota as they begins their toughest stretch of the season.

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Head coach Adam Hughes and Maryland women’s basketball will look to put an 0-2 season start in the rear view as its begins the toughest stretch of the season against No. 7 Minnesota.

“The pressure is on, but I think that’s good in a lot of ways,” Hughes said. “Rather than taking our time and slowly working into it, we get to get it going.”

Two five-set matches against Ohio State ended in heartbreak for the Terps last weekend. Friday’s season opener saw the Terps blow a 2-1 set lead, while on Saturday, Maryland had a comeback of its own, only to fall in the fifth set due to a handful of errors.

Both Friday and Saturday’s contests against Minnesota will be in College Park, with Friday’s matchup beginning at 8:30 p.m. on Big Ten Network and Saturday’s at 6 p.m on BTN+.

No. 7 Minnesota Golden Gophers

2020 record: 2-0, (2-0 Big Ten)

Head coach Hugh McCutcheon has guided the Golden Gophers to three Final Four appearances in the last five years. His team’s previous run to the Final Four during the 2019 campaign saw the Golden Gophers achieve a 27-6 record, including a 17-3 conference mark, despite a multitude of injuries.

The 2015 Big Ten Coach of the Year has cemented his name in Minnesota coaching lore, as well as in the International Volleyball Hall of Fame, becoming the first New Zealander to receive the honor.

Players to know

Redshirt junior middle blocker Katie Myers (No. 23) — This name may sound familiar. Myers transferred from Maryland after an injury-riddled four years. When healthy, however, Myers was a leader for the Terrapins. Her last season in College Park saw her rank in the top-five of the Big Ten in aces/set (0.38), blocks/set (1.29) and hitting percentage (39.5%). Those stats earned her First Team All-Big Ten honors, and in her first action for Minnesota last weekend against Michigan State, Myers continued her blocking prowess with a total of eight.

Junior outside hitter Adanna Rollins (No. 20) — Hailing from Carrollton, Texas, Rollins has made quite the ascent up coach McCutcheon’s depth chart since arriving in Minneapolis. After being a finalist for National Volleyball Player of the Year during her senior year of high school, Rollins quickly adjusted to the collegiate game, earning Second Team All-Big Ten honors. She regressed a bit during her sophomore season, but still placed third on the team in kills (306) and kills per set (2.68).

Senior opposite hitter Stephanie Samedy (No. 10) — Samedy is Myers’s comrade in the blocking department, but the senior displays her dominance on the offensive side as well. As an AVCA Second Team All-American in 2019, Samedy led the Golden Gophers in kills (339) and kills per set (3.07), while also compiling 299 digs and 23 aces. This was shockingly a step back for Samedy after back-to-back First Team All-American honors to begin her collegiate career. Down years for Samedy are not like most and her skillset will be something worth monitoring for the Terrapins.

Three things to watch

1. It’s Maryland vs. Minnesota, not Maryland vs. Katie Myers. The return of Myers to College Park in the maroon and gold will certainly be a strange sight. The Terps will know what to expect from their former stud middle blocker, but in facing such a well-rounded and deep team, Maryland’s game plan will be much more focused on the Golden Gophers overall rather than just Myers. Senior Erika Pritchard made sure to make that very clear.

“We have that familiarity, but I think we still need to look at the team as a whole and what they’re going to bring,” Pritchard said.

2. How will Maryland adjust heading into its toughest stretch of the season? The Terps lucked out this season as they will avoid playing No. 1 Wisconsin and No. 13 Purdue, but that doesn’t guarantee any cake walks on the schedule. The two upcoming matchups will pit Maryland against No. 7 Minnesota and No. 5 Nebraska, two behemoths in an already loaded Big Ten conference. The strategies heading into this two-week stretch will prove crucial for the Terrapins.

“We do have a tough stretch coming up, but one thing that’s nice is that playing an opponent like Minnesota makes you have to play clean and make you play at a higher level,” Hughes said.

3. Can Maryland get over the hump? Both matches against Ohio State last weekend saw Maryland lose some tight sets. A few momentum swings gave Maryland some much needed points, but the end result on both days left much to be desired for. Now, as the Terps begin their home schedule against a nationally ranked Minnesota team, will Hughes and his squad be able to win the sets that matter most and avoid close calls?

“It’s hard coming back from a loss like that when we had it in our hands,” sophomore Rebekah Rath said. “We had more of a technical week focusing on the little things and working together so we can have a good shot this weekend.”