After winning its first two conference matches last week, Maryland returned home hoping to continue to add wins in its inaugural season in the B1G. Unfortunately, the Terps couldn't sustain the momentum as they lost both matches to Iowa and Nebraska.
Friday night's match versus the Hawkeyes looked in advance like an excellent opportunity to add to the win column. Entering the weekend, Iowa had only won another conference match a five set home win over Northwestern. They picked up their second win Friday night in surprisingly easy fashion.
Hawkeyes see and exploit Terps weakness
The opening set was extremely competitive with ten ties and five lead changes. Iowa worked the left side of Maryland's defense repeatedly and with considerable success to open a 14-11 lead. The Terps fought back to tie the score behind a kill by Emily Fraik and a block by Ashlyn MacGregor and Chavi St. Hill. After an Iowa sideout, back to back kills gave the Terps their last lead of the set at 16-15.
The score was tied at 17 when the Hawkeyes went back to their right side and two Iowa kills forced Maryland into their first timeout. The timeout had the desired impact as Terps again fought back to tie the score at 20 on an ace by Carlotta Oggioni. However, Oggioni followed that up with a missed serve and ball handling error giving Iowa a 22-20 lead and leading to another Maryland timeout.
The Hawkeyes extended their lead on the first point after the timeout. A kill from sophomore middle hitter Chavi St. Hill would cut the Iowa lead to 21-23 but that would prove to be Maryland's last hurrah for the set. An Iowa kill and block would close out the first set at 25-21.
The second set was similar to the first with both teams essentially trading the first 16 points. Iowa was the first to open a small lead at 10-8 however back to back kills by Hailey Murray and Ashleigh Crutcher pulled the Terrapins even. A service error by Fraik and back to back blocks by the Hawkeyes again gave the visitors a small cushion. Again the Terps fought back starting a run of three points behind a kill by Murray that knotted the score at thirteen.
After a MacGregor block tied the score at 15, Iowa went on a 10-2 run fueled in part by a spate of Maryland errors. The Hawkeyes pulled away and comfortably won set two 25-17.
The third set was close again with the Terps this time having the early edge. At 7-4, Maryland opoened their largest lead of any point in the match. Maryland also held leads of 11-9 and 14-13 after the visitors had tied the score at 13 all. Once again, the Hawkeyes showed an ability to do something Maryland could not - string together points. An Iowa kill and a Maryland attack error led to a timeout by Coach Aird that failed to stop the Hawkeyes' momentum.
The Hawkeyes won three straight out of the timeout that was part of an 8-3 run to extend their lead to 23-17. The Terps cut the lead back to four but would ultimately drop the final set 25-20. Ashleigh Crutcher led in kills with 10. Other than team blocks, Iowa was better in every phase offensively and defensively. One area that stands out is the Maryland was a negative eight in ace to error ratio. In a match between two equal teams, those eight points can be a big difference maker.
Asked after the match to evaluate his team's performance, Aird said, "Poor. We didn't play very well. We passed poorly, didn't serve well, didn't attack real well. Iowa was just better than us in all phases of the game."
Terps show a little bit of scarecrow but Huskers have the heart
Nebraska made their way to College Park after sweeping Rutgers on Friday. The Huskers are one of the sport's elite programs with three national titles in their history. In something of a turnaround from Friday's performance, the Terps held their own for most of the match and competed well with a legitimate top fifteen program.
The first set was one of the best all season for Maryland with both teams trading points and siding out consistently. The Terps fell behind 3-1 early but came back to tie the score at four and take their first lead of the set at 6-5. Twice in the set Maryland held leads by as much as three. The first came at 11-8 after a service ace by Emily Fraik. Maryland also led 13-10 follwing a kill by Ashlyn MacGregor.
Nebraska bounced back with four straight to take a 14-13 advantage. But Maryland continued to fight held leads of 19-18 and 22-21. Two consecutive attack errors for Maryland first by MacGregor and then by Crutcher led to a timeout at 22-23. A kill from Crutcher staved off the Cornhuskers' first set point and moved the Terps to within one at 23-24 but a Kadie Rolfzen kill finished off set one for the Huskers, 25-23.
Maryland roared out of the gate to open set two to grab an early 5-1 lead. Nebraska immediately fought back to tie the score at five and the Terps went point for point with Nebraska in the second set before taking a 12-10 lead behind a block by Emily Fraik.
Nebraska soon tied the score at 12 and and again at 13 before Huskers' ace, a kill by Kelsey Fein and a pair of kills by Kadie Rolfzen helped to push Nebraska's lead to 4 at 17-13. A kill from Crutcher and 3 consecutive errors by Nebraska tied the score at 18 and led to a Cornhuskers timeout. The two teams traded points until a Maryland timeout at 21-22. Two kills by Nebraska and a Terps attack error closed out set two, 25-22.
After two thrilling sets, Nebraska began to flex its muscles a bit in the third. The Huskers jumped out to a big 19-10 lead before Coach Aird took a timeout to stem the tide. The Terps, behind three consecutive kills, would close the gap to 6 points, 16-22. Nebraska would score the last 3 points and win the third set 25-16.
Though Crutcher again paced the Terps in kills with 12, she also had 11 errors to hit just .032. Junior outside Emily Fraik and freshman middle Hailey Murray had excellent matches, combining for 17 kills and .333 and .500 hitting percentages respectively.
The first set showed how well this team can play when the passing is at a high level. They were able to hit .321 and sideout at 62 percent. The unfortunate reality has been that these stretches of high caliber play have been infrequent. Hopefully Coach Aird can find a way to get his team to display some consistency and turn a rather daunting stretch of play into one in which they can gain confidence as they work through the second half of the B1G season.
Maryland hits the road for their next four matches beginning this week when they are bound for Ohio and Pennsylvania to face Ohio State and Penn State. Matches are scheduled on Friday and Saturday with both starting at 7PM. The match at Ohio State will be streamed on BTN2GO.com