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Maryland volleyball weekend preview: Iowa

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After being shorthanded last weekend against Indiana, Maryland will host its first match since Feb. 13 against the Hawkeyes.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Due to a positive within the program and multiple contact tracing measures, Maryland was without two of its starters for its road trip against Indiana last weekend. While the Terps dropped the first game of the weekend in straight sets, they bounced back in an emphatic way to split the series.

Off the backs of an impressive weekend from their trio of freshmen, the Terps will host the Iowa Hawkeyes as they to try and finally piece together consecutive victories. Players’ families will be allowed to attend for the first time this year.

Friday and Saturday’s showdowns will be held at The Pavilion at Xfinity Center as the Terps hist their first opponent since Feb. 13. Both games will air on BTN Plus at 6 p.m.

Iowa Hawkeyes (3-9)

Head coach Vicki Brown is in her head coaching infancy with the Hawkeyes. Her promotion to atop the coaching staff came after two years as an associate head coach. In year one, Brown led a rebuilding program to a 10-21 record despite a lieu of injuries. Year two was put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, but since the spring season has begun, Brown and her Hawkeyes have endured just three victories.

“They can beat you with four or five different options,” coach Adam Hughes said. “We know we’re gonna have to have a good defensive weekend if we want to find some success.”

Players to know

Junior outside hitter Courtney Buzzerio (No. 2) — Buzzerio is above and beyond the MVP for the Hawkeyes. After a breakout sophomore season that saw her lead the team in service aces (32), place second in kills (305) and assists (263), and fourth in digs (175), she has continued to be a stat stuffer in her junior year. Buzzerio is an overwhelming leader in kills per set (3.24) and points (155.5). The junior is also second on the team in assists (210) and digs (89), and third in blocks (38).

Sophomore defensive specialist Joslyn Boyer (No. 1) — After starting just three games in her freshman season, Boyer has taken a significant sophomore leap. With a 3.89 digs per set average, Iowa’s defensive specialist slots in at seventh in the conference in that category. Boyer has 81 more digs than Buzzerio, establishing herself as the glue that holds the Hawkeyes defense together.

Sophomore outside hitter Edina Schmidt (No. 20) — The sophomore from Berlin has really sprouted into an impact player on the offense this season. After collecting 84 kills in 16 appearances, Schmidt has slotted just behind Buzzerio as the team leader in kills with 114. The German has had her fair share of an impact on the defensive side too, corralling 32 blocks while playing in all 48 sets thus far for Iowa.

Three things to watch

1. Updates on the COVID absentees from last week. The Terps walked away from Bloomington, Indiana with a 1-1 series split and did it without four of its players, including two starters. Now, Jada Gardner, Sam Burgio, Hailey Rubino and Chloe Prejean have all cleared COVID protocols and will be back in action this week against Iowa.

“I feel like we can maybe move a little bit,” Hughes said. “If a set gets away from us and we think we need to change a matchup we have the options to do so.”

Laila Ricks, one of the emerging talents on Maryland’s front line, says that the team being back at full strength will help in cleaning things up. “It allows us to really work on and focus on reducing errors on our side,” Ricks said.

2. Can Maryland put it all together against Iowa? As the season dwindles down to its last month of regular season games, Maryland has shown its capabilities in all facets. Their main claim to fame is blocking, but the Terps have produced solid outings on offense as well. The problem with that has been piecing it all together in one swoop. When one area improves, the other disappears. The 2-10 Terrapins will need to find continuity in their performance on the court, something that could see a boost now that families will be welcome back into the Pavilion.

“It’s just really awesome to to show everybody what we can do and they don’t have to watch on TV,” Burgio said. “It’s gonna be a little bit more of a home advantage.”

3. Will the home woes continue for Maryland? In its three road trips on the year, Maryland has emerged from four five-setters with one victory. Other than an outlier of a performance against No. 4 Nebraska, the Terps have competed on the road. The same can’t be said for the home efforts against No. 5 Minnesota and Michigan State, as the lifeless matches have equated to just one set victory, being outscored 12-2. A limited crowd at The Pavilion could spark life in the the Terps, but Maryland will need to earn some victories in its own backyard, or at the very least remain competitive, sooner rather than later in order to ride that momentum into future fixtures.