In a daunting road trip to Seattle, Maryland lost both matches to #5 Washington and #10 USC. On Thursday, The Terps took on the Huskies playing in front of a home crowd and lost in 3 sets (25-20, 25-15, 25-14). In the first set, Washington jumped out to a big leads of 17-9 and 21-11. Maryland fought back with a five point run to tighten the score at 22-17. A kill from All American Krista Vansant closed it out at 25-20. Both teams struggled offensively (.080 - MD/.094 - Wash). The second set began similar to the first as the Huskies built a large margin (19-11) and finished it at 25-15. Washington played a much higher level, hitting .387 against Maryland's .167. The third set was unfortunately a mirror image of the second with the Huskies closing out the match with a 25-14 set win. Senior Ashleigh Crutcher led offensively with 7 kills and a .182 hitting percentage.
Friday night brought another tough test in #10 USC. The Trojans were coming in off a loss a four set loss to Wisconsin and looked to make amends for an uneven performance. The first set was dominated by USC and their junior outside hitter Samantha Bricio. As mentioned in the weekend preview, Bricio owns one of the most devastating serves in the country and she had four aces in a row and five in a span of 5 aces in 7 serves that enabled the Trojans to take an insurmountable lead at 18-7 and they cruised to 25-14. The second set continued to be similar to the first with USC taking leads of 13-3 and 22-11. Two Trojan kills finished set two at 25-15. The third and final set was easily the best of the trip for the Terps. Improved ball control helped to build a lead at 16-15 and forced a USC timeout. They also held leads at 18-17 and 19-18 and had the set tied at 20-20. Three consecutive Maryland attacking errors proved to be the difference as the Trojans pulled away 25-21. Improved offensive production was a positive from the Washington match with Crutcher again leading in kills (10). Sophomore Ashlyn McGregor had a great night with 6 kills on a .417 hitting percentage.
The first contact for Maryland was typically the root cause of Maryland's problems. The serve receive and defensive quality was much lower than they will need to compete at the B1G level. Some of that is caused by the lineup changes due to injury and also playing two teams that bring more pace on a consistent basis. The one metric that can capture some of their struggles in serve receive is sideout percentage. It measures how often they can win the serve back when the other team is serving. Typically a percentage above 60% gives you a chance to win. For the weekend, Maryland sided out at 43% against Washington and 47% against USC. The Huskies and Trojans sided out at 66% and 71% respectively. The Terps showed great fight attempting to stay in each point but ended up scrambling based on poor passes and errant digs. The take away for the Terps is that, when healthy, they have the athletes to compete at a high level. But in order to compete and win matches in the B1G, they will need to improve every first contact to enable those athletes an opportunity to make plays.
Maryland opens B1G play next weekend on the road against Illinois and Northwestern.