A Championship Season
1996 in Review
A team can have all of the talent in the world, but in order to be successful, it needs to come together as a team. Together, the Terrapins posted a 26-5 record. The Terrapins claimed their second Atlantic Coast Conference championship, and were the first team in ACC history to go undefeated with a 16-0 regular season record. The 1996 season marked the third time in six years that Maryland advanced to the NCAA Championship Tournament, and the first time a Maryland program appeared in the top 25 poll. Three players earned All-District 3 honors, and three were named All-ACC, including ACC Player of the Year Daune Koester. Head coach Janice Kruger was named ACC Coach of the Year, and District 3 Coach of the Year for her efforts.
Nationally, the Terps finished eighth in team kills with a 17.5 per game average. Their .839 won-loss percentage ranked them 12th, while their .261 hitting percentage placed them 22nd.
The 1996 edition of the Terrapin squad boasted six veteran players who had a relentless desire for perfection and a talented bunch of newcomers who combined to give Maryland one of the deepest and toughest lineups in the ACC.
Leading the charge was Koester, who led by example all season, playing with intensity and fire, while never losing her focus. The ACC Player of the Year and First Team All-District 3 selection, finished the '96 campaign with a team-high 419 kills, which placed her second on the Maryland individual season records chart. Her 4.03 kills per game placed her third in the ACC. Her 1,173 career kills left her 65 shy of breaking the all-time kill record. Her 32 kills she recorded against Georgia Tech her sophomore year still remains a single-match individual record (current Terp senior Elizabeth Efron tied that mark in 1995 against North Carolina). As powerful as Koester was an offense, her defensive abilities were doubly powerful. She totaled a team-high 380 digs, a 3.65 per game average which ranked her fifth in the ACC.
Playing alongside Koester was senior Candice Seitz, who was voted MVP by her teammates and the Maryland coaching staff. The Oregon native displayed tremendous amounts of strength all year long. She totaled 360 kills, and had 960 swings which placed her second on the team. Seitz, probably the best defensive player on the team, had an uncanny ability to not let very many balls hit the floor. She dug every ball, and finished the year with a total of 379 digs, including a career-high 29 against Duke on October 12.
Her 3.51 digs per game placed her fifth in the final ACC standings. She was twice named ACC Player of the Week after first leading Maryland to an upset-win over then-No. 22-ranked Georgia Tech and Clemson on October 4 and 5, respectively. Her second honor came after her performance against Duke and Wake Forest on October 25 and 26.
Shannon Saltzman completed the trio of senior starters, and hit .313 which was second on the team. The Maryland native hit a career-best .909 against Clemson, tallying 10 kills on 11 swings, and was named ACC Player of the Week. A front row threat, Saltzman had a team-high 125 blocks, an average of 1.2 per game. Her 1.2 blocks per game was third-best in the ACC, and her 125 total blocks has her ninth in the Maryland individual season record books.
Returning seniors Elizabeth Efron, Conya Jabari-Kitwala and Eden Kroeger rounded out the starting contingent for the Terps. Efron, an All-District 3 First Team selection, led the Terps in hitting with a .314 attack percentage, which placed her fourth in the ACC standings. A First Team All-ACC selection, and the ACC Tournament MVP, Efron totaled 381 kills and 45 service aces which were second on the team. Her .455 aces per game average also ranked her third in the ACC charts.
Jabari-Kitwala led the Terps in service aces with 56. She finished the year ranked 20th in the nation, and second in the ACC, with a .538 per game average. A steady force in the middle, Jabari-Kitwala posted 60 total blocks while hitting .255.
Kroeger, the Terps' starting setter, had an outstanding junior year, being named First Team All-ACC, a District 3 First Team selection and an ACC All-Tournament selection. She finished the '96 campaign with 1,228 assists to bring her career total to 3,878.
It was as though a magical yellow brick road had been laid out and the Terrapins were merely following that path with a few stops along the way. The Terps opened the 1996 winning their first four games, while capturing the title at the Hofstra Inviational. Two early season losses to top-25 foes Wisconsin and Texas A&M got the ball rolling, and saw Maryland win its next nine matches, including a 3-1 win over then-No. 22-ranked Georgia Tech.
Maryland's 19-match home win streak would end on October 9 when George Mason defeated the Terps in a five-game thriller. The Terps were without the services of ace Elizabeth Efron.
Maryland charged through the ACC regular season with a perfect 16-0 record--a first in ACC history thanks to Wake Forest who rejoined the league last year. Maryland was ready to put the conference battle to rest. Mission accomplished. The Terps eliminated N.C. State (3-0) in the quarterfinals, North Carolina (3-1) in the semifinals, and host Georgia Tech (3-0) in the championship to capture the school's second ACC Championship.
Efron led the Terrapin charge at the ACC Tournament, and was voted tournament MVP after registering double-figure kills in all three matches. Efron's final tournament stats included 46 kills, 17 digs, seven service aces and seven blocks. She was joined by Koester and Kroeger on the All-Tournament team, evidence of the total team effort the group had adopted and would use to make their bid to a postseason berth.
A first-round bye in the NCAA post-season play gave the Terrapins a brief reprieve from a grueling regular season. Second round action meant a battle against the Louisville Cardinals.
It took a group of young women from Louisville, equally as passionate, to provide the ultimate challenge, and as it turned out, the only obstacle, to prevent the Terrapins from gaining their first NCAA Sweet 16 appearance. Rest assured that the glory of working together to gain a shot at such a milestone will not ever be lost on this group of young Terrapins. From the first serve to the final whistle, a burning desire to succeed propelled the Terrapins to a spectacular season.