Maryland volleyball lost one of its cornerstone middle blockers when Rainelle Jones graduated after the 2022 season.
The wisdom Jones accumulated throughout her five seasons with the Terps made her an indispensable player in their ascension into the best blocking team in the NCAA.
So whenever Eva Rohrbach takes the floor as middle blocker for Maryland this season, the freshman plays as the successor to one of the program’s all-time greats. Jones departed from College Park after 840 career kills and a program-record 718 blocks.
Rohrbach, who’s played three games with the Terps, has loads to accomplish to forge a legacy that rivals Jones’s. Comparing the two players now is trivial considering Jones appeared in 146 matches, while Rohrbach has yet to play a game on her home floor.
But Rohrbach’s inexperience hasn’t hampered her performance so far this season. The freshman’s work ethic and poise embody those of a polished veteran, and the Terps’ coaches have taken notice.
“She’s wildly intelligent,” assistant coach Becca Acevedo said. “When we give her feedback she is accepting it, understanding it and processing really quickly to make adjustments.”
Rohrbach sparkled in her first three matches with Maryland last Friday and Saturday, quickly shaking her pre-debut jitters to rack up 23 kills and a team-leading 12 rejections.
The latter value is especially telling of Rohrbach’s maturation — the steepest learning curve of transitioning to college volleyball, she said, has been keeping up on defense.
“That’s been the biggest thing I noticed — just quicker, better setters that are watching the blockers more often than not and seeing if you’re leaning a certain way, they’ll set the other way,” she said. “So it’s super tricky to block against.”
Rohrbach credits her blossoming defense to Kyle Thompson, the Terps’ Director of Volleyball Operations, who has helped Rohrbach play at the appropriate speed.
“Kyle for sure has … taught me a lot more about reading and just staying patient and knowing that I always will have time in the end to go make a block move rather than try and guess and cheat beforehand,” Rohrbach said.
Fellow middle blockers Anastasia Russ and Ellie Watson, meanwhile, are both upperclassmen familiar with Maryland’s system who have nourished the freshman’s curiosity.
“They’re really good role models and leaders,” Rohrbach said. “I ask them questions all the time and they’re always there to help teach me and learn.”
Rohrbach remains an impact player even if she doesn’t stymie an opponent’s spike. The middle blocker is adept at quickly regathering herself after she elevates for a block to situate herself for a potential attack on offense.
Her ability to find open space on the court gives Maryland’s setters the option to either lob a pass closer to the middle of the floor toward Rohrbach or to a hitter near the sidelines, challenging the opposing defense to cover more ground.
One of Rohrbach’s biggest strengths, Acevedo said, is jumping off of one foot, which also gives the Terps’ setters a larger window to arc a pass her way.
“She’s great at just making herself available,” Acevedo said. “It’s really hard for a middle [blocker] to give themselves some space where they can take an approach to attack but she is just really working hard to always create that space.”
Rohrbach can settle even deeper into her early-season groove when the Terps take on Old Dominion, Utah Valley and Navy at this weekend’s Kristen Dickmann Invitational in Annapolis.
The freshman said she’s not superstitious — effective preparation simply entails giving full effort during warm-ups and keeping it loose with her teammates. But regardless of how Rohrbach prepares, Acevedo sees a confident, “really coachable” player whose humility makes her ceiling boundless.
“She carries herself with an attitude of ‘I want to be great for my teammates and for this program,’” Acevedo said. “It’s just super selfless.”