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Maryland volleyball wins final two matches, surpasses last season's Big Ten win total

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Maryland took positive steps over the course of the season as they defeated the Iowa Hawkeyes for the second time this season, and took down the Northwestern Wildcats in straight sets to close out the year.

Sammi Silber

Iowa

This Thanksgiving, Maryland volleyball's seniors could be thankful not only for a collegiate volleyball career, but also a victory in their final match in College Park.

The Terrapins welcomed the Iowa Hawkeyes on Wednesday night in a rematch from earlier this season.

It was not the start Maryland was looking for when the match began. Iowa jumped out to an early lead and despite a late Terrapin push, they were able to close out the set, 25-20. Maryland was able to bring the score within three points, but the Hawkeyes had all the answers in the first set.

The teams switched roles in the second set, with Maryland taking control early. A kill from Adreene' Elliott made the score 10-4 in favor of the Terps, but Iowa was able to fight back on a 5-0 run and cut the deficit to one.

That would be as close as they would get. Maryland used a 9-3 run to take a 19-12 lead that would be enough to carry them through the second set. Iowa pushed late, forcing three set points before a service error gave the Terps a victory.

The third set featured strong play by both sides coming out of intermission. Ashlyn MacGregor served consecutive aces to bring Maryland within a point of the Hawkeyes early in the set. Aces were not hard to come by Wednesday night. The Terrapins served up a season-high 15 aces on the night.

Like she has done all season, Elliott stepped up when her team needed her the most. The Hawkeyes were at set point, 24-22, when Elliott rose up for a kill to bring her team within one. She then went on to serve back to back aces, and suddenly Maryland was at set point, 25-24. Iowa would regain the lead, but a Twilley kill and two straight Hawkeye errors gave the Terps a 29-27 victory.

The Terrapins could smell victory when play began in the fourth set. One set away from giving their seniors a win in their final match on the Xfinity Pavilion hardwood, they knew what they had to do. And boy, did they do it.

Maryland stormed out to an early lead and never looked back as they did not trail in the fourth and final set of the evening. A block from Whitney Cragio and MacGregor extended the lead to 10, and a kill from Elliott gave Maryland a 3-1 victory in the fourth and final set.

Elliott set the Maryland solo blocks record in the match with 98 and extended it to 99. She also continued to dominate opponents on the offensive end with 20 kills and a career-high five service aces.

Northwestern

Not only was Maryland able to send their seniors off with a victory in their final home match, but they helped get them a win in the final match of their careers too.

The Terps went into Evanston on Saturday afternoon and swept the Wildcats by a score of 25-23, 25-20 and 25-23.

Similar to their Senior Night match against Iowa, Maryland did not have the start they wanted when the match began. They quickly fell behind and were forced to play catch up for the majority of the set. They trailed until a Wildcat attack error gave them a 17-16 advantage. A service error from senior captain Amy Dion and a kill from Craigo extended the lead to three, and that would be all the Terps needed to close out the set, 25-23.

Unlike the first set, Maryland controlled the second from the opening serve. Elliott continued to dominate like she has all season long as consecutive service aces gave the Terrapins a 16-9 lead. Northwestern was able to keep the lead within reach throughout the set, but was never able to make the push needed to win it.

A Wildcat service error sealed the second set victory for the Terps, and they headed into intermission with a 2-0 lead.

Maryland jumped out to an early lead in the third set. Northwestern fought back to briefly take control, but a Twilley kill and a Dion ace put the Terps back on top. The Wildcats continued to fight and took the lead at 14-13. Again, though, Maryland had the answer.

Angel Gaskin posted back-to-back kills to give Maryland a 16-14 lead that they wouldn't relinquish. The Terps fought off countless Northwestern punches, and finished the sweep on a Twilley kill.

The 3-0 victory gave the Terrapins their first winning streak to end a season since 2006.

Thoughts

In its second season in the Big Ten, Maryland (15-19, 5-15) surpassed its inaugural season's regular season and conference win totals. The Terps finished with a 10-21 record last season and went 3-17 in Big Ten play.

Winning both matches this week shows how far this team has come over the course of the season. Although they had already defeated Iowa once, they did not let up when meeting for the second time. The Terps came out and beat the Wildcats on their own floor after being swept by Northwestern earlier in the season.

Although momentum does not carry over from one season to another, coach Aird and his returning players can use this week as yet another positive step forward towards becoming an improved program. Between the recruiting classes coming in, the returning players, the coaching staff and the support from the Terrapin faithful, the future seems incredibly bright for the Maryland volleyball program.