When Maryland volleyball libero Kelsey Wicinski — a mainstay in the Terps' lineup for the first three years of her career — announced her intention to transfer to Florida State in December, it left a gaping hole in Adam Hughes' squad.
So the Terps coach searched for an additional defensive specialist to bolster his lineup, and Allegra Rivas, a libero from Texas, signed in April as a late addition to Maryland's class of 2018.
Early in her Terps career, having joined a team recovering from an unexpected coaching shift with only two seniors on the roster, Rivas has appeared in all 21 sets and leads Maryland with 90 digs. Rivas, along with rookie middle blocker Rainelle Jones, has quickly adjusted to the pace of college volleyball to become a valuable producer for the Terps.
"It's a lot faster. It's very technical," Jones said. "For club, it was more just getting the ball and doing your thing, but in college it's really about seeing the hitter and learning each position."
Jones, who has also appeared in every frame so far, paces the Terps with 22 blocks. Of the seven players to play in all of Maryland's sets this season, setter Samantha Snyder is the lone upperclassmen.
Jones said adjusting to both the higher skill level and more complex technical aspects of the college game is demanding, but she's already felt her in-game reactions have sped up.
Hughes said his freshmen earned playing time and found success early due to the preparation they did off the court.
"In club, you get yourself in situations where you can just go out and play," Hughes said. "But now, there's so much film available on opponents before they play, so it's about if they can adapt before they even take the court."
In addition to watching film, Rivas also said the freshmen have been paying close attention to the Terps coaches.
"The best thing I've been doing is just listening to the coaches and their critiques and trying to improve," Rivas said.
After all of the losses over the offseason, the Terps knew they would be relying heavily on newcomers, and so far, freshmen like Rivas and Jones are answering the call.
"They've just been getting in the film room and eating up film," Hughes said. "Both of them are picking those things up pretty fast, so that's a good sign for their future."