IU volleyball, 2-10 after their most recent loss to No. 11 Purdue, will face Maryland at home this weekend. Maryland is 1-9 on the season with their only win coming against Michigan.
The Hoosiers are looking forward to being at home, head coach Steve Aird said. This matchup will be the first time the team hasn’t faced a top ten team at Wilkinson Hall this season.
Some of Maryland’s past losses have been to highly ranked teams, such as No. 7 Minnesota, No. 4 Nebraska and No. 19 Ohio State, and head coach Adam Hughes has multiple players ranked in the top ten in the conference for blocking, aces and assists.
“They’ve got a lot of talent and he is a great coach,” Aird said. “We know it’s going to be a test and a challenge and I have a ton of respect for him.”
IU is also coming off a series of unaggressive showings, unable to post competitive blocking numbers against both No. 11 Purdue and No. 8 Penn State. However, it’s not enough to make a complete judgment purely based on statistics, Aird said.
“When you serve the ball and pass the ball great, it puts pressure on the defense,” Aird said. “The skill of the other team matters too.”
IU faced some unexpected challenges against Purdue on Sunday. Junior outside hitter Breana Edwards was sidelined with a hand injury, leading to players like redshirt freshman outside hitter Ashley Zulauf, who has played in 29 out of 42 sets, seeing a lot of action. At one point Sunday, IU had six true freshmen on the court.
Aird said he’s unsure of what the lineup will look like against Maryland. Edwards is still questionable due to her injury, and Aird said the young team doesn’t have a lot of experience for him to take advantage of.
“We might start five freshmen against Maryland,” Aird said. “We’re not super deep, we don’t have a lot of moves we can make but we have good kids that play hard.”
Playing Maryland brings back elements of the past for Aird, who was Maryland’s head coach from 2014-17 before coming to IU. The team IU will see this weekend will contain players Aird recruited and coached, including senior outside hitter Erika Pritchard and junior middle blocker Rainelle Jones.
Pritchard recorded 18 kills in Maryland’s win against Michigan, and is currently sixth in the Big Ten in service aces with .39 per set. Jones is second in the conference with 1.59 blocks per set.
The Hoosiers are also thinking about how to keep their energy to finish out sets, something they have routinely struggled with throughout the season. For Aird, it’s all about time and growth, and he said he’s not putting extra pressure on his players this year to win big.
“You’ve got to get to the point where programs are competitive to start and you give yourself opportunities to break through,” he said. “Then you’ll break through once or twice and then that becomes the norm.”