I hope you all like volleyball because that's the feature of today's wrap-up as a young Terrapin squad completed a sweep through the first weekend of the Maryland Invitational tournament defeating the Long Island University Blackbirds three sets to none in the morning before closing out the tournament by taking down the Penn Quakers by a 3-1 final.
Maryland started strongly against LIU winning a side out on the Blackbirds first serve and running out to a quick 3-0 lead as Adreene Elliott picked up her only two kills of the match. The Terps held on to this margin until a 6 point run by LIU flipped the score and put the visitors up by three at 14-11. Behind strong serving from Sarah Harper, the Terps responded with a 4-0 run of their own to retake the lead. At this point Maryland seemed to pick up on LIU's attacks as the Terps blocker became increasingly effective. After the Blackbirds tied the score at fifteen, the Terrapins picked up points on consecutive blocks first senior Mary Cushman joined freshman Ashlyn MacGregor then sophomore Emily Fraik did the same putting Maryland ahead 17-15. The next rally featured three straight stuffs at the net by the Terps front line eventually forcing an error from the Blackbirds. After the day's matches, coach Tim Horsmon said, "That's as well as I've seen us block in a while. It was one of our focuses coming into the weekend and we have some players who are good at that." Amy Dion continued serving strongly for Maryland capping off the 5-0 Terrapin run with an ace before a Blackbird side out. The Terps bounced right back with a side out of their own followed by a 3-0 run behind Cushman's serving before closing out the set with a comfortable 25-17 win.
The situation became a bit more competitive in the second set. The teams traded points early with neither team able to hold serve for the first dozen points. The visitors from Brooklyn finally broke the pattern pushing out to leads of 8-6 and 10-7. The game settled in again with the Blackbirds margin holding between two and three when Horsmon inserted serving specialist Dani Bozzini who responded with a mini run that pulled Maryland even at fifteen. With LIU up 20-19, senior libero Sarah Harper getting the ball up for an eventual kill by Elliott. This seemed to spark the Terps as they picked up two more points behind Dion's serving to take a 22-20 lead. Maryland's fifth block of the set won a side out and a kill by Ashleigh Crutcher brought the Terps to set point and the Terps took advantage forcing a wide attack and taking the second set 25-21.
After the break, the third set began similarly to the second with the teams essentially swapping serves for the first eighteen points of the match. This time the Terrapins put together the first run. Following a side out with the score tied at nine Maryland out together a string of four points on Harper's serve to gain a 14-9 advantage. With Amy Dion serving, the Terps extended their lead to six at 17-11 but the Blackbirds responded with a run of their own to close the gap to three at 18-15 at which point it became Bozzini time and Maryland pulled ahead by a 21-15 score. The Blackbirds wouldn't go down without a fight and fought of three match points with the Terps up by five. Match point proved to be a real thriller as LIU playing with a sense of desperation dug shot after shot before a cross court tip from Ashleigh Crutcher closed out the match. Adreene Elliott led Maryland with 12 kills on an outstanding .478 percentage while Julia Anderson had a team leading 22 assists and Sarah Harper had 19 digs.
The Terps took on an undersized and over matched Penn Quaker team from the Ivy League in the final match of the weekend in a match that had one surprising turn of events. Maryland rolled out to a quick three to nothing lead in the first set and never looked back. The Terrapins maintained a working margin between two and four points for much of the set. After Crutcher's kill gave Maryland a side out and a 20-15 advantage, freshman setter Julia Anderson took over serving duties for the Terrapins in a four point run that included two of the longest rallies of the match featuring outstanding digs from both teams. The run set up nine match points for the Terps and they closed out the set at 25-17 in a set that featured a phenomenal seventy-two percent side out percentage.
When the team switched ends for the second set it was as if they stepped into the Bizarro world of the Superman comics. The Terps lost focus. They didn't communicate well. They set into blocks and didn't block or dig well themselves. The result was a near mirror of the first set with Penn grabbing the early lead and keeping Maryland from getting their noses in front - though the Terps did manage to tie the set several times. The visitors from Philadelphia used three runs of three points or more to salt away an easy 25-18 win.
Maryland clearly used the break to refocus on the task at hand. Both teams played outstanding defense early in the set racing around the court, digging balls and extending rallies. For the Quakers it was to no avail as the Terps burst out of the gate to a quick 6-1 lead. As Maryland had in the second set, Penn rallied back to tie the score at ten but the Terps reasserted their dominance scoring eight of the next ten points to pull ahead by an 18-12 score. The teams traded points and Amy Dion took over the serving duties after Maryland's side out. In a run that featured two blocks, the Terps extended their lead from six to nine at 22-13. After another side out, Dani Bozzini came in to serve. She was unable to close out the set but did take Maryland to a set point that the Terps won on a kill from Emily Fraik.
A focused and confident Terrapin squad took the floor for the fourth set and Maryland again bolted out to a quick early lead taking five of the first seven points. Unlike the third set, the Quakers would come no closer than two when they cut the Maryland lead to eight to six and nine to seven. After a side out kill by Elliott gave the Terps a 12-8 lead, Ashleigh Crutcher stepped to the service line. Before she was done, the Terrapins had doubled up the Quakers. At 16 -8 Maryland had total control of the set and match. A six point run that featured two blocks and solid serving from Amy Dion effectively salted the match away with the Terps taking a 22-10 lead. Coach Horsmon inserted some of his less experienced freshmen into the lineup and Jessica Ward took advantage with a kill to pull the Terps to match point and a point on her serve to close things out.
Maryland placed three players on the all-tournament team - outside hitters Adreene Elliott and Mary Cushman - as well as tournament MVP Sarah Harper who finished the weekend with seventy-six digs to move into sixth place in career digs for Maryland. The Terps finish up the Maryland Invitation next weekend beginning with a match on Friday the thirteenth at 7:30 pm against the New Hampshire Wildcats.