Something wasn’t right when Maryland volleyball coach Adam Hughes greeted his team in the locker room one day.
“There was no music,” he said. “I was very disappointed.”
The absence of beats bumping from a speaker created an unusually mellow mood the Terps’ coach wasn’t used to encountering. Hughes recalled an earlier instance when he walked into the locker room and saw pin hitter Laila Ricks, unaware her coach had entered, playing air guitar to a song.
Hughes isn’t against either locker room environment, but he has his preferences.
“Whether it’s vibes, no vibes, whatever it is, it needs to be consistent,” he said.
Since then, Hughes’ squad has kept the volume up.
As the team’s unofficial DJ, middle blocker Anastasia Russ spins a variety of artists and genres to pump Maryland up on game days. She opens with throwbacks and R&B hits — lighter songs that settle the Terps’ pregame mood before she mixes in more energetic tunes.
“We don’t want to get too hyped and peak emotionally,” Russ said. “We have to build up.”
Justin Bieber, Bruno Mars and SZA headline the early rotation, though Russ is sure to sprinkle in a few songs specifically for her head coach.
“I start playing Coldplay songs for Hughes,” she said. “He made a comment about it someday, so now I’ve just stuck to it. It’s tradition … We all just get a laugh out of it because it’s the most non-gameday artist to play.”
From there, Russ shuffles in some rap to boost the intensity and get the Terps “juiced up” as first serve approaches. She said Waka Flocka Flame’s “No Hands” is the team’s staple hype song when it’s time to lock in.
Russ said the gig can be challenging. Maryland superstitiously requires her to control the pregame aux, which puts pressure on the second-year transfer to incorporate everyone’s preferred tunes.
“I don’t have a playlist,” she said. “I pull up songs from the queue, and that’s why it stresses me out.”
Russ will accommodate almost any request — she prefers SZA — though she doesn’t vibe with Pitch Perfect, a collective love among the trio of outside hitters Erin Morrissey, Laila Ivey and Sydney Bryant.
“I just can’t get behind that,” Russ said.
She and her teammates also have a Spotify playlist for practice and pregame warmups that Hughes called “the most eclectic thing” he has ever seen.”
The 70-song rotation encompasses six decades of hits and incorporates a variety of genres.
Hip-hop and rap tracks, such as Metro Boomin’s “Creepin’” and J. Cole’s “No Role Modelz” top the list, which later gives way to iconic heavy metal hits such as Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” and AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck.”
Ambient electropop numbers, such as M83’s “Midnight City” complement alternative jams like the Glass Animals’ “Heat Waves,” while recent platinum picks such as Doja Cat and SZA’s “Kiss Me More” balance out 1970s staples, including Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys Are Back in Town.”
“It’s all over the map,” Hughes said.
Hughes wants his players to feel comfortable being themselves. The team’s diverse playlist and pregame queue is a strong indicator of the individuality the Terps’ coach covets within the program.
“I’m always interested to see what they’re going to pick,” he said.