Penn State Women’s Volleyball Faces Maryland In Road Test

Story posted October 21, 2022 in CommRadio, Sports by Justin Ciavolella

There is a chance for a block party in Maryland this weekend, not just because of the Terrapins’ homecoming festivities, but because of the top 10 blocking teams matching up.

No. 13 Penn State will travel to take on Maryland as it seeks to put its Big Ten record back over the .500 mark for the first time since its opening match of conference play.

The Nittany Lions are coming off of a five-set victory over Iowa that set their conference record to 4-4 and improved their overall record to 15-4.

Kashauna Williams, Zoe Weatherington and Allie Holland recorded double-digit kills against the Hawkeyes, becoming the first trio of Nittany Lions to do so in the same conference match this season.

That presence at the net was not just seen on the offensive side though, as the blue and white recorded 15 blocks. Holland, the junior middle blocker, had seven of those.

Defensive efforts like those from Holland and others, including Taylor Trammell who has 76 blocks on the season, have been a big reason for why the Nittany Lions are ranked seventh in the nation with 2.82 blocks per set.

With only six teams ranked ahead of them, it would be hard for Penn State to face teams better than it, but for the second time in Big Ten play, that is exactly what will happen.

The first time was against Wisconsin, which is ranked second in the nation with 3.13 blocks per set. While the Badgers only out-blocked the Nittany Lions by one, that match ended in a sweep for Wisconsin.

This time out, it will not be the second best team in the nation, but instead the best blocking team in the nation. Maryland is first in the nation, averaging 3.43 blocks per set and rosters the nation’s leading blocker.

Rainelle Jones paces the nation with 1.74 blocks per set, though she is not alone. Anastasia Russ is second on the team in blocks, coming off of a weekend performance for which she earned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week.

Russ contributed 15 blocks and 13 kills in two road sweeps over Northwestern and No. 9 Purdue. That upset of Purdue was the first top-10 victory for the Terrapins since joining the Big Ten in 2014.

Maryland recorded 25 blocks in those two sweeps, which has led it to sweeping three consecutive Big Ten matches for the first time in program history. A 20-block differential over those three sweeps is consistent with the 145 blocking differential that Maryland posts over opponents this season.

This weekend, that Terrapin squad will look to block the heavy hitters on the Penn State roster. Williams is first on the team with 208 kills, with Weatherington coming in second with 157. From them to the rest of the team, there is a strict drop off to Anjelina Starck, who has 123 kills.

That offensive attack for the Nittany Lions entered a rough patch when it entered its conference slate. After starting the season 12-0 by winning 36 of 43 sets, the blue and white has been swept three times in conference play.

The opposite is true for the Terrapin offense, as it has come to life as in its three sweeps. Sam Csire is leading the way with 252 kills while Laila Ivey is in second place at 191. Those two lead the way against Purdue, combining for 22 kills.

Those kills would not have come without the assists from Big Ten Setter of the Week Sydney Dowler. The junior setter racked up 62 assists to go along with 16 digs, seven blocks and five kills in the two victories last weekend.

Penn State got the best of Maryland in both matches last year, taking the first one in five sets and the second one in three.

The first serve of this year’s first matchup will come at 8 p.m. on Friday.

Justin Ciavolella is a second-year student majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email