Maryland volleyball struggles with injuries amid grueling Big Ten slate

When Maryland volleyball head coach Adam Hughes walked off the Xfinity Center Pavilion court last Saturday night, the Terps had hit a mark they hadn’t reached since 2009. They won’t be in a rush to repeat it.

That night’s 3-0 loss to Wisconsin marked the fifth consecutive match in which Maryland lost in straight sets, a low point in a year marred by several key injuries. 

When Katie Myers became unavailable for a weekend series against Minnesota and the Badgers, two top-10 teams, the Terps’ outlook seemed more dire. However, Hughes is trying to keep the Terps grounded.

“I don’t really care who we play, I want to worry about the things I know we can control,” Hughes said. 

After splitting a weekend series with Indiana and Purdue, Maryland’s record stands at 13-15, and just 5-11 in Big Ten play. The Terps have already matched their conference loss total from last season, and have four games still on the docket. Yet Maryland is trying to look beyond the win and loss column.

“Looking at it like wins and losses is pretty result-oriented, and we’re a pretty process oriented team,” said Taylor Smith. “The Big Ten schedule is a grind, and we’re right in the middle of it.”

Injuries to two key players have forced some players into more advanced roles. Setter Nicole Alford, who started all 32 games in 2018, missed the first nine games of the season with a foot injury, and has struggled to stay consistently healthy after her return. 

Setter Samantha Snyder leads the Terps with 482 assists this season, a massive improvement from a 2018 season with 36 assists in which Snyder was largely used as a serving specialist.

“A lot of people have stepped up,” Erika Pritchard said. “I think the lane and the window is still held at the same standard.” 

Smith has also appeared in eight games this year at the setter position after not playing at all in 2018. She played five sets in a match on four different occasions early in the season — a necessity when the Terps were still searching for the best combination of players to replace Alford’s production.

“That’s just what happens, in a season injuries come,” Smith said. “(It’s) just being ready to do whatever the team needs you to do or the coaches need you to do.”

With a losing conference record guaranteed for the ninth straight season, the Terps’ best chance to catch the eye of the NCAA tournament committee was with a marquee victory over a top-10 team. However, with Maryland’s only remaining ranking opponent in Illinois sitting at no. 25, Hughes knows that opportunities have passed by.

“We wanted a better punch at (top-10 teams) and I don’t think we got that, and we know those opportunities are past us,” Hughes said. 

Despite the struggles, Maryland does still have an opportunity to finish with a winning overall record for the third consecutive season. 

“(We’re) just focusing on things we can control, keeping the standard high, no matter who’s on the court,” Smith said.