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Volleyball goes the distance versus Iowa but falls 17-15 in fifth

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The Maryland Terrapins volleyball squad made their final road trip of their initial Big Ten season to face the Iowa Hawkeyes. After being swept by Iowa in College Park, the Terps lost a five set nail biter to the Hawkeyes.

It was a matchup of first year head coaches on Wednesday with Steve Aird and Bond Shymansky from Iowa facing off for the second time this season. Both programs have struggled this season with sub .500 records and a few forgettable matches in B1G play. On Wednesday though, both squads played at a consistently high level in a five set Iowa win (18-25, 25-18, 25-15, 15-25, 15-17) that gave fans a glimpse of the future of each program.

The Hawkeyes entered the match 13-16 overall and 5-13 in conference play. After winning five consecutive matches, including an upset of 12th ranked Purdue, Iowa had lost four straight matches and all were 3-0 sweeps. Maryland was on an eight match losing streak of their own but had played much better of late, winning a set versus Nebraska and pushing Minnesota to five sets. The first meeting of the season on October 31st in College Park was controlled by the Hawkeyes in a 3-0 sweep. The Terps were hoping to improve from their performance where they hit .137 and missed 11 serves.

First Set - A bit of deja vu

In terms of the score, Wednesday's match began similarly to the first meeting with Iowa taking an 8-4 lead facilitated by four Maryland service errors and prompting Maryland coach Steve Aird to call his first timeout early in the set. Maryland won the point coming out of the timeout and the teams traded kills until Iowa put together back to back kills to go up by five. The teams went back to trading points until another service error for the Terps followed by an Iowa kill led to Coach Aird taking his last timeout of the set to try to slow the Hawkeyes' momentum with the score standing at 17-11. A Hailey Murray kill trimmed the lead to five but Maryland's sixth service error of the set took the lead back to six for Iowa. Maryland would get no closer than that and the Hawkeyes won 25-18.

Second Set - You turn me right 'round

In terms of match flow, it seemed that the teams simply switched scripts from the first set. The Terps got off to a quick 4-1 lead before two Ashleigh Crutcher kills sandwiched around an Iowa hitting error led to the Hawkeye's first timeout at 9-5. Iowa soon tied the score after a Maryland service error, two kills and an ace.

Iowa took an 11-10 lead before a Murray kill won a sideout for the Terps and spurred a three point run behind strong serving from Amy Dion during which, first Ashleigh Crutcher combined with Chavi St. Hill and St. Hill joined Ashlyn MacGregor, in picking up two of Maryland's 17 blocks for the match.

From that point, the Terps took over the set. They went on an 11-7 run, ending with a kill by Murray. The Terps won the set 25-18 and hit an impressive .500 with 15 kills.

Set three - Holding the momentum

Maryland kept their foot down in the third set. Trailing 2-1, the Terps ran off three straight to take a 4-2 lead that they wouldn't relinquish. The Terrapins extended the lead to 10-4 behind Murray's hot hitting. She had three consecutive kills to force an Iowa timeout. Ashlyn McGregor ran off consecutive aces to push the lead to eight at 12-4. Two hitting errors for the Terps let the Hawkeyes close the gap to seven and prompted Aird to call a timeout with Maryland leading 17-10.

Strong serving by Whitney Craigo and MacGregor and continued hot hitting by Crutcher and Murray helped close out a dominating 25-15 third set win and give the Terps a two sets to one lead. Crutcher was filling her typical offensive role with 15 total kills on a .481 hitting percentage.

For the set, Maryland had 11 kills and a solid .267 hitting percentage. They held Iowa to a .091 hitting percentage.

Fourth set - Flipping to the 'B' side

After playing an extremely sharp third set, the inconsistency that has plagued Maryland all year once again reared its head and Iowa completely dominated the fourth set. Five consecutive kills from Lauren Brobst and a Maryland attack error helped the Hawkeyes sprint to a 6-1 lead. From that point nothing really worked for the Terps. Encouraged by their coach to serve aggressively, the Terps are prone to make service errors. Maryland committed six of their fourteen service errors in the first set and added four to that match total in the fourth set. After hitting .500  and a solid if unspectacular .267 in the second and third sets respectively, the Terps hit only .069 as a team in the fourth and watched their sideout percentage drop to 40 percent. Iowa hit their match high .308 with 12 kills and sided out at 66 percent.

Fifth set - A frustrating conclusion

A five set match deserves a great final set and that is what the fans in Iowa City saw. Late in sets and matches, teams will look to their best attackers to lead them to victory. Iowa leaned on Brobst while Maryland looked to Crutcher for constant offense.

In the beginning of the set both players received multiple sets and either through nerves or fatigue, were unable to score for their teams. The Terps got out to an immediate 2-0 lead and the squads swapped pairs of points with the Hawkeyes coming back to tie the score at two and four. A kill by Crutcher won Maryland a sideout and Carlotta Oggioni followed that with an ace. A block by MacGregor and Catie Coyle opened Maryland's lead to three at 7-4.

The  squads traded points and a Crutcher kill kept Maryland ahead by three at 10-7. A service error by Craigo ignited a four point Iowa run. Aird called his first timeout at ten all in an effort to regroup. Out of the timeout, a Brobst kill gave Iowa their first lead of the set and Maryland would never lead again. Murray tied it for the Terps at 11 with a kill out of the middle but Brobst followed again with the 20th of her match high 23 kills kill to move the Hawkeyes to a 12-11 edge.

A block by Murray and Chavi St. Hill tied the score again but the momentum switched back after a Maryland ball handling error. Maryland took their final timeout with Iowa leading 13-12. Crutcher took on the Hawkeyes with kills tand kept her team in the match with kills to knot the score at thirteen and again at fourteen. Fittingly, with the score tied at 15, Maryland's final service error closed out the Terps hopes and Iowa sealed the match with a kill to win 17-15 and three sets to two.

Crutcher led the Terps in kills with 20 kills and hit .333. Murray had one the best matches of her career with 14 kills, .393 percentage, and 3 total blocks. McGregor and Emily Fraik added seven kills each. Whitney Craigo had a double double picking up 18 assists to go along with her team leading 10 kills. Oggioni led the Terrapins with 22 assists. Maryland had 17 blocks and 6 aces but missed 14 serves.

The Terps are now 9-21 and 2-17 in the B1G. They wrap up their season at home against Northwestern on Saturday at 7:00. Saturday will be senior night for Catie Coyle, Kaitlyn King, and Ashleigh Crutcher. Because of the Maryland - Rutgers football game,fans are encouraged to park in the Terrapin Trail garage. The match can be seen on BTN2GO.