Shannon Saltzman does not know quite what to expect of her homecoming to Centennial High on Saturday night.
"It's going to be weird," said Saltzman. "I feel like high school was so long ago. It'll be different because I'm playing a different role."
The Baltimore Sun's All-Metro Player of the Year last fall, Saltzman still is adjusting to the transition from high school superstar to college student. Even 18 matches into the season, she finds that she has much yet to learn about the college game.
A 6-foot-1 middle hitter, Saltzman has played in 13 matches, compiling a .203 hitting percentage and 23 kills. Still, the season has had its ups and downs.
A month ago, she earned All-Tournament honors in the Maryland Invitational as the Terps (12-6) finished second to Cal-Poly. Coming off the bench in the third game, Saltzman had several kills and blocks that turned the momentum to the Terps even though they ended up losing the match, 7-15, 9-15, 12-15.
Other times, however, Saltzman barely gets off the bench. In Wednesday night's 16-14, 15-7, 15-5 victory over Georgetown at Cole Field House, Saltzman played only the final seconds of the match, adding just one hit and one block.
Sometimes spending so much time on the bench can be frustrating, Saltzman admitted.
"When I first got here I didn't expect to play at all," she said. "Every little bit of playing time was a plus. Now that I've gotten some, it makes me want more, because I like it in there."
As a middle hitter, Saltzman has two strong players, junior Kelly Malins and sophomore Sherry Smith, ahead of her.
"She's got her work cut out for her," said Terps assistant coach Ellen Dempsey, who has coached Saltzman on her club team. "It's a challenge, because those two are a little bit bigger and little more experienced."
Actually, Saltzman is a bit of a latecomer to volleyball. She started playing with the Columbia Volleyball club as a freshman and did not play for Centennial until her sophomore season. By her senior year, however, Saltzman was highly recruited, earning a full scholarship to play at Maryland.
"She was a big get for Maryland volleyball," said coach Janice Kruger, impressed with Saltzman's height, training and 3.7 high school grade-point average.
"Shannon is doing so well, we're looking at her in other positions," said Kruger. "We've been training her a little on the right side. She's a natural blocker and we've been having trouble with the blocking on the right side, so we're looking at Shannon there. That's pretty big for a freshman to try to conquer two roles."
Saltzman doesn't mind the move. "I like it, but it's making my middle slower, because I'm getting used to the tempo over there," she said, adding that the transition from blocker to hitter is much quicker in the middle, where the offense often relies on the quick set.
While the on-court adjustments can be difficult, they're just part of the picture for any freshman college athlete. Dealing with living away from home for the first time and juggling the academic load with the time commitment to volleyball -- with matches, travel and 20 hours of practice a week -- can take a quick toll on any teen-ager.
"I knew it would be hard, but it's even harder than I thought it would be," said Saltzman, an engineering major. "It might say on paper that you have a three-hour practice, but you're in the training room for 30 minutes before and 30 minutes after, and you might lift for 30 minutes, so it adds up."
By her sophomore season, Saltzman might have the juggling act down, and that would make her even better on the court.
"Right now, every day is an adventure and she's so on edge, because she doesn't know what to expect," said Dempsey.
"Next year, she'll have more strength and she'll be settled in. I think the Shannon Saltzman that steps on the floor next year will be a completely different player. We anticipate great things from her."