Maryland volleyball spent most of last week preparing for the Kristen Dickmann Invitational without coach Adam Hughes, who fell ill on Aug. 26 after the Terps’ first tournament of the season in Florida.
In his place stepped assistant coaches Becca Acevedo and Ryan Ammerman along with volleyball operations director Kyle Thompson. Together, the trio ran Maryland’s practices while Hughes recovered.
Hughes returned to the team on Aug. 31 and coached the Terps to a pair of wins in three games at last weekend’s tournament in Annapolis, but he credited his staff for laying the groundwork for Maryland’s productive weekend.
“Literally I would have had a panic attack before, but I’ve got a lot of trust in this group,” Hughes said. “They took a big step forward being able to handle it when I was gone for four days.”
Acevedo, Ammerman and Thompson each supply the Terps with distinct insight stemming from their respective backgrounds. They form a complementary trio that guarantees Hughes his program will be okay while he’s away.
“It’s really nice to know that when you’re not in a great place, you’ve got a really good group around you who can help you,” Hughes said.
Acevedo’s value is twofold — her time at Palm Beach Atlantic University helps her relate to today’s student-athletes while her coaching experience with USA Volleyball gives her a wealth of ideas and philosophies that she can weave through Maryland’s program.
Acevedo, a three-time American Volleyball Coaches Association All-American during her time with the Sailfish from 2011-2014, supplemented her coaching role with the Terps by spending part of last offseason serving as an assistant for the USA Volleyball U15-17 Team at the 2023 National Team Development Program.
“I was not a highly decorated player by any means in my career,” Acevedo said. “Being able to coach high-level players and have that unique opportunity to learn and grow has been super special.”
The National Team Development Program is a vital recruiting pipeline for the Terps, and Acevedo’s knack for connecting with young talent makes her a key asset in bringing future stars to College Park.
Like Acevedo, Thompson has relayed to Maryland’s staff the insight he’s gathered from coaching stints with USA Volleyball, including a role with the gold medal team at this year’s Girls’ U19 FIVB World Championships in Europe.
Thompson’s experience as the team’s operations director provides the Terps with an asset integral to the program’s efforts to blossom into the upper echelon of the Big Ten.
“Kyle’s an elite administrator,” Hughes said. “He loves volleyball and has really been great as a sounding board for us.”
Ammerman injects the staff with fresh ideas from the men’s game that vary considerably from the customs of women’s volleyball. The first-year coach replaced former Terps assistant AJ Bonetti, who was named head coach at Georgetown in February.
Ammerman has quickly immersed himself within the staff. Hughes embraces the challenge of incorporating Ammerman’s novel perspectives without overhauling his own ideologies.
“I didn’t want someone to come in and just tell me … I’m doing a good job,” Hughes said. “I wanted him to come in and say, ‘Why are we doing that?’”
Sometimes Hughes wouldn’t have answers for those challenges, which would then prompt him to re-evaluate. Other times he did have the answers to defend himself and solidified the reasoning behind a process.
The entire staff has welcomed Ammerman’s approach, which incorporates a new practice drill to help players sharpen their decision-making in high-leverage situations.
The new staff has bonded through the hours spent traveling, watching video and recruiting. Their differing opinions have led to heated discussions, but Hughes thinks their disagreements reflect the group’s collective commitment to strengthening the program.
The quartet has coached just six games together, but its developing unity provides a foundation for the sustained success that Hughes envisions bringing to College Park.
“We’re just very fortunate,” he said. “I would like to keep this group together for as long as possible.”