The Maryland volleyball team traveled to Ann Arbor to face their sternest test of the season to date in a round robin tournament that included the tenth ranked hosts, the Michigan Wolverines, the Marshall Thundering Herd, and the twenty-fourth ranked Ohio Bobcats. Complicating matter, the Terps found themselves without the services of All ACC outside hitter - and team leader in kills - Ashleigh Crutcher who suffered an injury in practice on Thursday.
The Terps acquitted themselves well despite dropping the first set by a 26-24 final. The Bobcats got off to a quick start racing out to a 3-0 lead but the Terps came back with a kill by Adreene Elliott and a block by Mary Cushman and Kelsey Hrebenach. Ohio's lead fluctuated between one and two points until Maryland ran off four straight culminating with a kill by Hrebenach to take a 10-8 lead. The Terps held their slim margin through 12-10 but then it was Ohio's turn for a four point run recapturing a two point lead of their own at 14-12. The teams continued their tight play with Maryland finally getting a nose in front at 21-20 on a kill by Mary Cushman. The depleted Terrapin squad continued to keep up the pressure and smash by Cushman brought Maryland to a set point. However, the Bobcats took charge and ran off three straight points to take the set.
The squads started a closely competitive second set early before the Bobcats took control. With the score tied at five, Ohio ran off four straight to capture a nice working margin. The Bobcats slowly and methodically built the margin to eight at 22-14. However, a kill by freshman Alex Brown and two strong serves from Dani Bozzini closed the gap to five. With Maryland trailing 24-17 freshman Chavi St. Hill got her first college kill to stave off match point and win a sideout. The Terps saved three more set points behind strong serving from Sarah Harper and passing by Amy Dion but the late rally fell just a bit short and Ohio held on to take the set by a 25-21 final.
The third set started off every bit a competitively as the first two. For the first seventeen points of the set, the teams traded scores with neither able to open more than a one point lead until a block by St. Hill and Emily Fraik gave Maryland a 10-8 edge. A solo block by Hrebenach opened the Terps largest lead of the set at 15-11. However, Ohio came back to knot the score at fifteen. Ohio eventually pulled ahead but an Elliott kill tied things up again at seventeen. Another four point run by the Bobcats gave them a difficult to overcome 21-17 lead. And when they reached set point at 24-19 the situation looked quite bleak for Maryland. But there's no quit in this Terrapin team and a block by Alex Brown and Catie Coyle ignited a four point run highlighted by back to back kills by Elliott pulled the Terps within one point of tying the game at twenty four. As with the previous set, however, the hole was a bit too deep and Ohio closed out the straight set win by a final of 25-23. Amy Dion had 20 assists and Sarah Harper had 18 digs who were led in kills by Mary Cushman with fourteen and Adreene Elliott with ten.
In the meantime, I'll be off to field hockey and will give you all a write up of that as well as volleyball's night match against Michigan.
I'll start the evening recap by wrapping up volleyball's day. Facing the tenth ranked team in the country on their home court without one of your two best players is not a recipe for success and the Wolverines swept the Terps in three relatively easy sets. In the first set, Maryland scored the first point. This was their only lead of the set. Michigan ran out to an 8-3 lead and though Maryland fought back to close to within three several times, the home team held control of the set and closed it out by a 25-17 final. The Terps played the Wolverines evenly through the early part of the second set staying even though the first fourteen points at seven all. However, Michigan began to string together small runs of two and three points to stretch their lead to 18-12. But as I wrote above, this Terrapin squad doesn't quit and the Terps rallied behind three Mary Cushman kills to pull within two at 18-16. The teams traded points but with the score standing at 19-17 in Michigan's favor the Wolverines put up back to back three to one runs to close the set at 25-19. Michigan asserted early control of the third set taking a 5-1 lead out of the gate. The Terps closed to within two at 7-5 but after a three point run by the Wolverines opened the lead to five, Maryland never came closer than four dropping the set by a 25-17 final score. The Terps will close out their trip Ann Arbor when they take on the Marshall Thundering Herd on Saturday.
If Maryland's fall sports have a constant, it's that coach Missy Meharg's field hockey team rarely loses. Since 2000, the Terps are 269-44 for a winning percentage of .859 with 6 ACC and 5 National Championships over that time. In fact, only twice this century has Maryland failed to reach the final four. Thus it should come as no surprise that the Terps toppled the fifteenth ranked Wake Forest Deamon Deacons 4-1 at the Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex in College Park Friday night. The Terps registered their 119th win versus only 13 losses at this facility while moving to 7-0 on the year and 1-0 in the ACC.
This is not to say that the visitors from Winston-Salem didn't challenge the Terps. They did. Maryland came out playing hard, fast, aggressive hockey that has become this team's trademark. Ali McEvoy lofted a long pass on a restart to Jill Witmer. The senior controlled the ball and got it inside the circle to Ann Dessoye who got off a shot just a minute twenty-three into the game. The chaos surrounding the save created Maryland's first penalty corner but Steffi Schneid's shot sailed well high. Maryland continued their pressure and it paid off in the fifth minute when Dessoye blasted a hard shot from the top of the circle that Witmer redirected for the first goal and a 1-0 Terrapin lead.
But Wake Forest seemed intent on attacking the Terps as quickly as they had been attacked playing in a style that Meharg said they had not seen on game tapes. Wake attacked quickly, passed crisply and tackled well and saw their efforts rewarded when they scored the tying goal on a hard shot from the left into the lower right hand corner of the goal. After the game, Hunter said, "I was still moving on the shot and in my opinion it was a soft goal but those are the moments where you have to stop, not think about it, let it go and move on and keep playing." And forget about it she did as we'll see.
The teams continued to pressure each other through the middle of the half each creating dangerous opportunities. However, it would be the Terps who broke through. With just over ten and a half minutes to play in the half, Wake's defense blocked Alyssa Parker's shot but Katie Gerzabek, playing for the first time in two games, picked up the rebound and in her words, "I thought it was going to be a corner but then I just saw them coming at me so I just kept playing and ripped it and hoped it was on cage." It was and it put the Terps up 2-1. Hunter's return to focus showed up late in the first half. After Steffi Schneid picked up a green card Hunter came off her line far up toward the top of the circle to make a dramatic kick save that preserved Maryland's 2-1 lead into the half.
Hunter carried this momentum into the second half as she faced an early attack from the Demon Deacons but made two saves in the space of three seconds - one from point blank range. Hunter's play coupled with a key strategic change by Meharg seemed to ignite the home team. After holding only an 8-7 advantage in shots in the first half, the Terps would outshoot the Deacons 12-4 in the second. The change that opened up these opportunities for Maryland was Meharg's decision to move Ali McEvoy from the back to the middle. "If you noticed, they were almost playing a box and one on Ali McEvoy in the first half so she just had a player on her sometimes even when they had the ball. So in the second half we just put Sarah (Sprink) deep and we ran McEvoy right in front of our middies. They had to go ahead and mark her there and now she can be dangerous and she was." In fact, Anna Dessoye picked up a rebound off a McEvoy shot in the forty-first minute to open a two goal Terrapin lead. McEvoy continued to be dangerous as in the fifty sixth minute she picked up a rebound when Sprink had her shot off a penalty corner blocked. McEvoy's shot found the back of the cage and the Terps led 4-1 with just fourteen and a half minutes to play.
Continuing another pattern that marks this teams play, Maryland's four goals came off the sticks of four different players. Meanwhile, the Terps' defense tightened the noose around their goal as they allowed Wake only two shots after the initial flurry early in the half as they also held the Deacons without a penalty corner until the clock had expired. Wake Forest failed to get a shot despite bringing all ten field players forward.
The B1G will get their first taste of Terrapin hockey as the Michigan Wolverines come to College Park for a one pm match on Sunday. The game will be the first of three consecutive games without senior star Jill Witmer who will join former Terrapin great Katie O'Donnell on the U.S. National Team for the Pan American Games in Mendoza Argentina.