During Adam Hughes’ final two years as director of volleyball operations at Penn State, the Nittany Lions swept 24 of their 34 home matches, won 33 of them and secured three final four appearances and the 2013 national championship.
So when he returns to the vaunted Rec Hall as Maryland volleyball’s head coach Friday, Hughes knows the challenge his Terps are up against. Since joining the Big Ten in 2014, Maryland hasn’t won a set in University Park, and Penn State is 69-6 at home.
But despite facing a top-10 team in one of the nation’s most imposing environments, Hughes thinks the Terps can handle it.
“The conference prepares you for that,” Hughes said. “Penn State’s student section is right next to you, but we played at Minnesota in front of 5,000 fans and I thought our team held their own.”
Hughes is a State College, Pennsylvania native and a Penn State alumnus who spent nine years on the Nittany Lions staff.
“I’m not going to hide the fact that that’s my roots,” Hughes said. “It’ll be fun, it’ll be a pretty cool experience, but at the same time, I think the team is really excited to play a top-10 team on the road.”
Hughes came to College Park as an assistant in 2014 before taking over as head coach this season.
He’s been making sure the team fine-tunes its strategies for the Nittany Lions, but the Terps veterans have ensured the younger players are prepared for the environment.
“There’s a lot that goes on in the match besides just playing,” junior setter Samantha Snyder said. “We try to get our youngsters ready for everything.”
Snyder and other upperclassmen have tried to keep the team on an even keel, with captain Katie Myers saying the Terps “look at it like every other game.”
But Myers, who’s in her third year with the Terps but missed Maryland’s last two matches in Rec Hall due to injury, admits she’s particularly excited for the road trip.
“I’ve always wanted to play in that kind of environment,” Myers said.
At home this season, the Nittany Lions are 5-0 with five straight-set wins, all in non-conference matches. So while the trip could have plenty of distractions and emotions for Hughes, he’s kept his focus on crafting strategy to upset his alma mater.
“I think it’s back to X’s and O’s,” Hughes said. “The challenge is high, but they’re excited about the opportunity. We talk about it all the time…you could look at it as a huge challenge but we look at it as a huge opportunity.”