Maryland libero Kelsey Wicinski is still sidelined with an upper-body injury, having missed the last 4 games for the Terrapins. Her latest absence came as part of a 3-0 sweep at the hands of #11 Michigan State on Saturday. That’s the 3rd-straight 3-0 loss for the Terrapins, and the 4th in the last 5 games.
Wicinski’s isn’t the only injury that has hurt the Terrapins’ defense this season – freshman middle blocker Katie Myers, who is also a team captain, has been out since mid-September with a knee injury.
In total, the team was undefeated when Wiscinski went down in a 3-0 win over USC on September 14th. Since then, they’re 3-7, albeit with most of those games coming against top-25 teams. Specifically, since Wicinski went out, they’ve had trouble holding opponents’ offense at bay. For context on the below, with Wicinski, who at the time of her injury was the leading digger in the Big Ten, they held Penn State to a .301 hitting percentage, which is actually well below their nation-leading season average of .347
In the 4 games since, without Wicinski, each opponent has hit above their season average. That includes Northwestern – a game that Maryland won.
- (L) Penn State – .301 (season average .347)
- (W – no Wicinski) Northwestern – .273 (season average .264)
- (L – no Wicinski) Illinois – .318 (season average .298)
- (L – no Wicinski) Wisconsin – .389 (season average .312)
- (L – no Wicinski) Michigan State – .381 (season average .261)
In her absence, true-freshman Sam Burgio has taken over libero duties. Burgio is averaging 3.5 digs/set in the last 4 games – as compared to the 4.7 that Wicinski was averaging before her injury. There have been some hiccups in the team’s back-row communication as well, as was well laid out in this article by Andy Kostka on Sunday.
The defense that was a hallmark of Maryland’s early-season turnaround has suffered, and so too has the offense (which is unlikely a coincidence). Head coach Steve Aird says that Wicinski is day-to-day, though she wasn’t even on the sideline for the team’s last two home games.
The silver lining for the Terrapins is that, in spite of the hot start to the season, this wasn’t ever going to be ‘the year’ for Maryland. Perhaps a spot in the NCAA tournament (which is still plausible this season, though slipping away) would be a nice jumping-off for next year, but this is a young Terrapin team (Wicinski is only a junior). The team only graduates two players – one of whom is significant middle blocker Hailey Murray, who ranks 8th nationally in hitting percentage at .432. The added experience of both court time and facing adversity could be rewarded with a big year in 2018 for Maryland.