Earlier this year, Maryland volleyball coach Steve Aird said a key difference between his squad and top Big Ten teams was depth. While other programs have veteran players on the bench, most of his reserves are underclassmen.
Recent injuries to key players have limited the Terps’ depth even more. In the past week, Aird ruled out middle blocker Katie Myers, outside hitter Aylin Saran and setter Whitney Craigo for the season. Starting outside hitter Gia Milana and opposite hitter Angel Gaskin are also battling injuries and are not 100 percent.
So when the Terps play No. 16 Michigan on Wednesday night, three days after falling in straight sets to then-No. 2 Nebraska, their depleted unit will face the challenge of playing another ranked squad.
“We’ve been really unlucky,” Aird said. “You’ve got a choice when that happens. You can either pout and feel sorry for yourself or you can keep attacking.”
On Sunday, Aird announced Myers and Saran would redshirt due to ongoing health problems. He also said senior setter Whitney Craigo’s career is over after a neck injury.
The Terps expected Myers — the No. 62 incoming recruit in the country, according to PrepVolleyball — to make an impact in her first season in College Park, but she was forced to miss the first nine matches due to an ACL injury. On Sept. 15 she played just one set against then-No. 5 Washington before reinjuring her ACL. She will be out for the remainder of the season.
“The team is sad not to have her this year,” middle blocker Hailey Murray said. “Our job is to support her. She’s still around in practice, she’s still a member of our team and we can’t wait to get her back next year.”
Myers, Saran and Craigo did not hold prominent roles, but Milana’s and Gaskin’s injuries may have an impact on the Terps’ play against the Wolverines.
The duo has accounted for 48.5 percent of the Terps’ kills this season, so any dip in performance level due to injury would likely make it difficult to top Michigan.
Still, Milana, who hopes to be ready for the contest, believes an upset win remains possible.
The Terps lost, 3-1, in their meeting with the Wolverines on Oct. 7 but dropped two of the sets by less than five points.
“We’re a little beat up, and we’ve got some injuries here and there,” Milana said. “But we are confident going in because we’ve played against them, we’ve watched video and we know what they do. We have a really good game plan going in.”
Aird, meanwhile, just wants the Terps (8-12, 0-8 Big Ten) to show some fight against the Wolverines (16-4, 5-3) despite their ongoing injury problems.
“Too many people want things to be easy,” Aird said. “But sports and life aren’t easy. [The players] are learning a lot … and things aren’t always going to go well, but you can control your attitude.”