Samantha Snyder felt welcome as she walked into her first 6 a.m. weight training and conditioning session with the Maryland volleyball team during the spring semester.
The sophomore setter transferred from American in February to join the program, and the offseason training regimen helped establish good relationships with her new teammates off the court. Their personalities jelled from the start.
Three tournaments into the season, Snyder's playing style has fit right in with Maryland, which is off to a 9-0 start. During the Thunder Invite, Snyder posted career-best numbers, including 32 assists in Friday's 3-2 win over Toledo.
"You've got to have the right culture to bring a kid from another program in," coach Steve Aird said. "Our team did a really good job bringing her in, and I think that she did a really good job being a part of the team."
When Aird first developed a relationship with the Snyder family, he didn't focus on Samantha Snyder. The fourth-year coach was instead interested in recruiting Snyder's younger sister, but she opted to play beach volleyball at USC instead.
In her freshman year at American, Snyder struggled to stand out, notching 22 assists and 27 aces in 104 sets. Then, the coaching staff changed the team's offensive system, causing Snyder to evaluate her options.
Because her family liked the program Aird was building, Snyder reached out to the Terps, and when Aird met Snyder he believed she would be a good fit.
"I've always just wanted a chance to show people what I can do," Snyder said. "I like to run a quick offense, and [Aird] is giving me that chance."
In addition to her family's relationship with Aird, Snyder has connected with assistant coach Kristin Carpenter, a new hire who arrived in College Park at a similar time to Snyder.
Carpenter's experience as a setter on Penn State's two national titles in 2009 and 2010 has helped Snyder develop this season.
"Because [Carpenter is] so young, she's pretty easy to talk to, and she connects really well to all four of us [setters]," Snyder said. "She's been there, done that, and it's really easy to take her information and feedback, because not only do you know she was a stud, she's won. And winning is the most important part as a setter, because that's something you can't just [fake]."
Through nine matches played, Snyder has been featured as the primary starting setter, though the 6-2 formation run by the Terps rotates her and fellow setter Taylor Smith. Snyder leads the Terps with 218 assists.
Snyder was excited by the prospect of setting nationally ranked recruits during her time at Maryland, such as outside hitters Gia Milana and Erika Pritchard, who lead the squad with more than 100 kills each.
"I think she's really comfortable with us and I think we're really comfortable with her," middle blocker Hailey Murray said. "She's just a really important part of [the offense] and the better we all work together is the better we play."
Snyder's passing helped the Terps finish at or above a .400 hitting percentage in both Saturday wins.
Aird wants Snyder to stay relaxed and continue learning the team's tendencies, but he likes what she's brought to the court so far. Coming from a family of volleyball players, she hasn't shown any reservations playing a pivotal role with a new program.
"She's a talented kid," Aird said. "I told her there would be an opportunity to play and she embraced it."