When Rainelle Jones walked off the Xfinity Pavilion floor for the last time in the fall of 2021, it was clear that the Maryland volleyball star mid-blocker hadn’t closed her College Park career yet.
“Hopefully I’ll be here next year and continue that again,” Jones said after leading the Terps to their most wins since they joined the Big Ten. “It’s still an ongoing thing. I’ve talked to the coaches about it, made a plan and stuff, but right now it’s sticking with Maryland.”
On Thursday, the NCAA leader made her decision public in blocks by set.
Jones, along with fellow captain and teammate Maddie Naumann, will exhaust their additional year of eligibility and rejoin coach Adam Hughes’ squad next fall, the team confirmed.
“Glad Maddie and Rainelle both decided to come back,” said Hughes. “They helped us both on and off the floor. I think it’s a great moment for us when they both decide to come back.”
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All athletes affected by the COVID-19 pandemic were allowed to qualify for an additional year, should they choose to use it.
After a historic season in which Jones finished with a nationally leading average of 1.73 blocks per set, Jones now has the chance to build on an already historic career in Maryland.
Jones currently ranks third in program history in total number of blocks, and is only 104 blocks away from setting the program record for career blocks.
And she’s already looking at the record books for her final college season.
“Of course I want to keep marking those records and keep building,” Jones said. “[I’m] will always try to reach the top.”
While the return of Jones and Naumann to the program provides continuity for a Maryland team that is bringing back many of its starters, the Terps will still have to adapt to a changing roster this off-season.
Cara Lewis transferred to Virginia Tech after three seasons alongside Jones at middle blocker, and 6-foot-5 Pitt transfer Anastasia Russ was recruited to the Hughes staff in early January.
Outside hitters Erin Morrissey and Laila Ivey will also be new faces to the Terps’ roster, while outside hitter Sam Csire and setter Sydney Dowler will look to expand into great second seasons.
“It’s going to be really interesting to see how they develop because a lot of our girls have done so well so far in just six months of training,” Jones said. “At least I try to teach them what I learned when I was younger to help them.”