The Big Ten took a major step toward expanding its volleyball outreach when the conference’s television network unveiled a record-setting broadcast schedule ahead of the 2023 season.
Big Ten Network announced in August that it would televise at least 55 Big Ten volleyball matches, the most in its history. Conference powerhouses like Nebraska and Wisconsin earned a bundle of prime-time slots, while other programs were given fewer chances to shine in front of a national audience.
Maryland volleyball’s exposure on the network’s historic broadcast slate was minimal. The Terps’ three televised games were tied for the fewest marquee matches with Rutgers and Northwestern — both teams that ranked below Maryland in the conference’s preseason poll.
But the Terps showed out in the few opportunities they had to play on a bigger stage. Maryland won all three of its matches featured on Big Ten Network this season, the final being a straight-set victory over Iowa on Saturday in Coralville.
“I told them before the match it’s a great chance to put on a show of who we are,” coach Adam Hughes said. “That was one of the best performances we’ve had this season.”
The Terps baffled Iowa with an arsenal of pinpoint serves that produced a season-high 12 aces. Maryland’s service pressure forced the Hawkeyes to scramble on a number of the Terps’ offerings, which limited Iowa’s chances to challenge Maryland with competitive attacks.
The Terps easily handled many of the Hawkeyes’ shots, which helped them quickly generate rhythm on offense. Hughes’ squad orchestrated a dazzling display on the attack, tallying 42 kills against four unforced errors.
Sixteen of those putaways fueled the Terps’ 25-19 comeback victory in the first set, one that viewers couldn’t even watch. Big Ten Network showed the end of the Penn State at Michigan State match instead, which aired in the slot before Maryland’s game.
“Which was fine,” Hughes quipped, “because we were down 12-8.”
The broadcast eventually swung from East Lansing to Coralville with Maryland leading 7-5 in the second set, just in time to capture one of the Terps’ best frames this season. Hughes’ squad stroked 12 spikes past the Hawkeyes without committing an error in a set it dominated, 25-8. It tied Maryland’s largest margin of victory in a set this year.
The Terps fended off Iowa in the ensuing frame to secure their first road win since their pilot match on Big Ten Network this season, a 3-1 victory at Rutgers on Sept. 27. Maryland’s offense was similarly sound against the Scarlet Knights. The Terps blasted 52 kills and misfired on six spikes to finish with their highest hitting percentage in a conference game this season until Saturday’s win over the Hawkeyes.
“It’s kind of unfortunate that we’re not on Big Ten [Network] again this season because we’ve done so well on TV,” said pin hitter Samantha Schnitta, who best embodied the Terps’ crisp attack in both of their nationally broadcasted road wins.
The senior parlayed her joint season-high 16 putaway performance at Rutgers into a 10-kill, error-free outing against Iowa.
Schnitta and the Terps may not have impressed viewers with those two wins — the Scarlet Knights and the Hawkeyes are a combined 2-22 in conference play — but Maryland displayed its elite potential to the country when it upset then-No. 16 Minnesota on Big Ten Network on Oct. 6.
The Terps’ 3-2 triumph over the Golden Gophers was the program’s first-ever victory against Minnesota and displayed the type of momentous wins that are occurring more frequently in College Park. Maryland has defeated a ranked opponent in each of the last three seasons.
Hughes doesn’t dwell on how Big Ten Network distributes nationally televised games. He covets any chance Maryland receives to showcase the program’s culture to a larger audience.
But after the Terps thrice proved this season that they’re worthy of playing under the national spotlight, Hughes thinks the program will earn even more marquee matches in the future.
“Any time they can put us on, we put on a good show,” he said.