Coming off its biggest win of the season against No. 3 Ohio State, Penn State hits the road Wednesday to meet a talented Maryland squad.
The Terrapins saw their undefeated season come to an end Sunday against Minnesota but still enter Wednesday’s contest with a 13-1 record.
Maryland secured a big-time victory of its own when it took down No. 2 Wisconsin Friday in five sets on its home court.
The win was the Terrapins' first against a ranked opponent since 2018, and their first ever against a team ranked in the AVCA top 10.
Despite its historic start to the season, Maryland didn’t crack Monday’s AVCA Coaches Top 25 Poll, although it did receive five votes.
These two teams haven’t faced off since the 2019 season, as their two matches in the spring were canceled due to coronavirus concerns.
Penn State won both of those 2019 meetings — first on Oct. 11 in State College in five sets and then on Oct. 26 in College Park in a three-set sweep.
That Oct. 11 match was the closest Maryland has come to knocking off the Nittany Lions since the Terrapins joined the Big Ten in 2014.
The blue and white has been dominant against its Southern neighbors over the past two decades, winning all 12 matches it’s played against Maryland since 1999 — with nine of those contests coming in the form of a Nittany Lion sweep.
There’s reason to believe Wednesday’s match could be much more competitive than the ones the teams have played in the past.
This year, the Terrapins have flipped the script from a spring season in which they finished just 5-15, and they have several players who could make life difficult for Penn State.
Senior middle blocker Rainelle Jones leads the Big Ten in blocks with 85 and blocks per set at 1.98.
Libero Milan Gomillion is already making an impact in her first collegiate season — the freshman defensive specialist ranks first in the conference with 228 digs, while also pacing the Big Ten in digs per set at 4.85.
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Week 2 of Big Ten action did the impossible and topped Week 1.
As a team, Maryland has been rock solid defensively, limiting opponents to a 0.121 hitting percentage and ranking first in Big Ten in blocks with 150.5, while also coming in second with 3.20 per set.
Russ Rose has plenty of history with Terrapins coach Adam Hughes.
Hughes has Penn State ties as he served as director of volleyball operations and as a volunteer assistant coach in two separate stints under Rose.
Hughes also spent two years as the assistant coach for the State College Area High School’s boys varsity volleyball team after graduating from Penn State in 2006.
Now in his fourth year leading the Terrapins, Hughes has guided them to their best start in program history.
In Hughes’ first season as head coach, the Terrapins had their first ever first team All-Big Ten selection — a player who’ll be on the other side of the net Wednesday.
Penn State senior outside hitter Erika Pritchard earned first team All-Big Ten honors twice in her four seasons in College Park, once as a sophomore in 2018 and then again as a senior last season, before deciding to spend a fifth year in Happy Valley.
Pritchard led Maryland in kills in each of her final three seasons with the team and is off to another hot start with 88 kills through 11 matches with the Nittany Lions.
Penn State has gathered momentum early in the Big Ten season with back-to-back sweeps, and the next test for the 9-3 Nittany Lions is continuing their high level of play against an upset-minded opponent on the road.
First serve between Penn State and Maryland will be at 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Xfinity Center Pavilion in College Park, Maryland.
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