By Ryan Queler
For Unwind magazine
After a disappointing season, a surging and motivated Terrapins volleyball team has set high expectations for the rest of their schedule, following an impressive 10-4 start to their season.
Head coach Steve Aird attributed the team’s early success directly to their preparation coming into the season.
“I think the kids worked hard over the summer to be ready to go into pre-season in the best shape possible, and there has been a real positive vibe around the program,” he said. “Our early success is a result of our hard work and our readiness to compete, regardless of who our opponent is.”
After leading inner-conference rival Penn State to their sixth national title, Aird is now in his second year guiding the Terps. While last year was an adjustment to a new program and players, Aird has worked hard to bring in the same winning culture that Penn State has inherited for so long.
He praised senior captain Amy Dion for her leadership in the locker room, “giving structure to the team and explaining how things work at this level, especially to the younger players.” Leading her team to 10 early victories, Dion attributed this success to the entire team buying into Aird’s system, with the mindset that “when we look back at the end of the game, we should have nothing left in the tank and have no regrets. So far this mindset has worked well for us.”
While the Terps have lost three key players in just two months because of knee injuries, Aird praised his four freshmen on the team, who have provided fresh faces for the program and have learned under the guidance of the seniors.
“The biggest battle so far has been internal and trying to keep the team healthy and being able to move on from the adversity when you lose key players and have to rely on younger kids,” Aird stated.
Abigail Bentz, a freshman from Shrewsbury, Pennsylvania, is one of the players that has quickly stepped up into an important role in her first season with the Terps. Bentz noted that the biggest difference between volleyball at the high school and college level has been the speed of the game, but added that “it is exciting to play in the best conference for volleyball in the country.”
As always the case in sports, the more you win, the more fans care about the team. Since joining the Big Ten, the Terps have made positive steps by getting more and more people excited about the program and packing the gym on game day.
“Last year Coach Aird and staff worked really hard to get more people to games, especially Greek life,” Dion said. “It’s always fun to play at home and have a big crowd cheering for you.”
Next up for the Terps will be an in-conference clash with Illinois, who Aird labeled a “potential final four team.”
“This Friday will be as cool as an environment in the country as we face off against one of the best teams in the country on the Big Ten Network,” Aird said. “It will be a big test to see how wild our crowd can get.”
For Dion, who grew up in Chicago, Friday is an opportunity to play against the team she grew up watching, calling it “an honor to get to play on the same stage” as the team she followed before committing to Maryland.
Although the Terps anticipate being underdogs in several future games, Dion has stressed that the team’s main goal is “taking the steps in the right direction to really build a top-tier program here at Maryland.”
Friday’s match vs. No. 9 in the country Illinois is set to start at 7 p.m. home at the Xfinity Center Pavillion.