Although the Terps lost their match against Wisconsin on Saturday night, the Maryland volleyball team played one of their better matches of the season. The Badgers handled the Terps in straight sets by scores of 25-20, 25-19 and 25-20.
The Maryland squad again showed signs of growth, which caught the eye of head coach Steve Aird.
"They're doing a lot of things better than they were a week ago," Aird explained. "They played hard and competed."
A variety of players kept Maryland competitive early in the first set. Ashlyn MacGregor got the team on the board with a kill, which was followed by two from Hailey Murray and one from Liz Twilley. Twilley saw a lot of opportunities to score tonight, with 19 total attempts. She finished the match with 10 kills and hit an impressive .421%.
It was her defense, though, which allowed Wisconsin to eventually generate a lead that would not be relinquished. The Badgers targeted Twilley on back to back serves in the middle of the set. Twilley was unable to accurately pass both balls and the Terps were down 12-6.
Lauren Carlini did what she always does: shine. The junior setter made some incredible passes throughout the match, with her best coming in the first set. Carlini sent a perfect pass all the way across the court while drifting out of bounds. Her pass was slammed home and Maryland trailed 14-7.
Adreene` Elliott got herself on the board late in the set when she got her first kill to keep the team in the match. Maryland was able to close the gap to four with three straight points, making the score 16-12.
Maryland won perhaps the toughest point of the match later in the set, when they rallied to make the score 21-16. The Wisconsin lead was eventually cut to three points, and they called a timeout leading 21-18.
Amy Dion's serve failed to make it over the net coming out of the timeout, and Wisconsin rallied to win 25-20.
Angel Gaskin had her second straight impressive offensive performance. She tallied four kills in the first set. Whitney Craigo finished the match with 38 assists, 15 of them coming in the first set. Craigo had all but one Maryland assist in the match.
Wisconsin was able to do whatever they wanted in the first set, with the Terps totaling zero blocks.
Maryland was able to stay within striking distance for the majority of the second set. They were able to bring the Badger lead to within one point twice in the set but just weren't able to give themselves a lead.
This has been a common theme throughout conference play. Maryland has been close but never able to push themselves over the hump to come out in front.
"We haven't gotten to the level that we need to be in order to pick teams off," Aird said. "We're good enough to play and compete in this conference, but we aren't good enough to win -- yet."
The team played with maximum effort tonight. They were diving all over the place and trying to will each other to a victory.
"We were down in all three games and we could've rolled over, but we didn't", Aird explained.
It was a good night for the freshmen. Kelsey Wicinski and Abby Bentz combined for 13 digs and Gaskin finished the night with 9 kills.
"Our freshmen played at a very high level," said Aird. "They weren't afraid of the competition or the moment."
Maryland was able to close the Wisconsin lead to three points late in the set. The score was 22-19 and the Terps seemed poised to come all the way back and take the set. The Badgers responded well and took the next three points to win the set, 25-19.
Wisconsin was able to jump out to a quick 9-4 lead, leading to a UMD timeout. Out of the timeout, Wicinski served an ace to make the score 9-6. MacGregor and Craigo combined for a block following the ace to bring the Terps within two. A Twilley kill tied the score at nine and the Terps were suddenly rolling with four straight points out of the timeout.
Another fascinating pass by Carlini gave the Badgers a 15-13 advantage later in the set and they were able to build a 19-15 lead.
Maryland called a timeout and Coach Aird pulled Elliott aside to have a personal conversation.
"I told her if she wants to be a pro, she's going to have to play and think like a pro," Aird explained. "Sometimes she plays it too safe. She's such a good player so she worries about letting the team down."
The Terrapins were able to again make the score 22-19 and forced a Wisconsin timeout. Wisconsin rallied again, going on a 3-1 run to close out the match.
Maryland played hard throughout the night. With matches on Wednesday and Thursday of this upcoming week, there isn't much time for the team to make adjustments. They will face another two tough teams in Michigan and Michigan State, but as Aird explained, as long as he can see the team making progress, he'll be satisfied.