Maryland volleyball’s Kelsey Wicinski and Samantha Burgio stayed up late texting each other before playing then-No. 3 Penn State last Saturday, rehashing their game plan.
Burgio wanted to know where Wicinski, a fellow defensive specialist, needed her to stand on the court when she rotated into the lineup. Burgio frequently asks the Big Ten leader in digs (4.78 per set) about preparation and how to prevent rough performances.
While they compete for a similar role with the Terps, they cooperate with each other, helping Burgio become a solid rotation option in her rookie campaign.
“Burgio wants to be a libero,” coach Steve Aird said. “[She] has some stuff she’s got to learn, but she’s a heck of a young player. And I like [her and Wicinski] to compete like crazy on the court, and then when they leave practice, go grab dinner together.”
Aird said the experience Wicinski gained through splitting time her freshman year with libero Amy Dion helped her develop into one of the steadiest liberos in the conference. With a young lineup surrounding her this season, including players who are new to back row responsibilities, Wicinski feels she can be a steadying presence.
“I like to think that I can calm down the other outsides,” Wicinski said, “telling them, ‘Okay, I got the ball, don’t worry about it, just focus on hitting.'”
Wicinski tells Burgio to watch how Maryland’s blockers line up and try to play around them. She also advises the Eden, New York, native to observe how opposing hitters begin their swings to get a head start so she can get a head start defending a kill attempt.
Burgio has featured in 17 matches while accumulating 0.94 digs per frame, and learning from Wicinski might give her a leg up when she’s an upperclassman.
“She’s helped me a lot because we’re always competing,” Burgio said. “She’s always pushing me to be better, and if I do something wrong she’s like, ‘That can’t happen,’ and then she’ll tell me what I’m doing wrong to help me fix what I’m doing.”
Burgio has rotated into the lineup for much of the season and did so throughout the Penn State match. She replaced outside hitter Erika Pritchard to offer more experienced back row defenders around Wicinski. Pritchard has 22 receiving errors, the second-most on the squad.
In the Terps’ straight-sets loss to the Nittany Lions, who lead the NCAA with a .352 hitting percentage, Wicinski notched 13 digs while Burgio recorded two digs along with six service receptions.
“[Wicinski] tells me that she trusts me with the ball,” Burgio said. “When one of the best liberos trusts you with the ball, you trust yourself a little bit more. It calms you down.”