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Maryland volleyball struggles, but still wins 2 of 3 in Georgetown Classic

A Maryland squad quite different from the one that played last week at Kansas struggled in the Georgetown Classic. The Terps picked up wins against Princeton and Georgetown but lost a five set match to in state rival Towson.

Sammi Silber

If Maryland's play in the tournament at Kansas caused a flare up of my Irrational Hyperbolic Homerism, their performance this weekend in the Georgetown Invitational provided a quick cure and a clear reminder that the Terps are, a young squad. Friday night, Maryland escaped with a 3-2 (25-12; 21-25; 25-15; 23-25; 15-13) win over Princeton. In the afternoon match Saturday, Towson withstood a furious Maryland rally to grab a five set win of their own (13-25; 20-25; 25-22; 25-21; 13-15). The Terrapins wrapped up the weekend with a deceivingly close 3-0 (25-23; 25-18; 25-22) over the host Georgetown Hoyas.

Maryland 3 Princeton 2

Maryland dominated every aspect of the first set against the Tigers. The Terps hit .385 for the set and continued their impressive defensive play holding Princeton to just .033 while picking up six blocks. Princeton may have been a bit hungover or fatigued from their 3-0 loss to Towson earlier in the day. In addition to being unable to hit over or around Maryland's front wall, the Tigers also committed a number of unforced errors that allowed the Terps to dominate the opening set.

The match might have turned a bit over the final points of the set, however. Although the Terps closed out the set in workmanlike fashion, Princeton might have gained the tiniest bit of hope when they held off a pair of set points before falling on an attack error.

Whether it was a case of Princeton gaining confidence from those final points or Maryland becoming a little overconfident because of their easy first set win, the Terps started the second set by digging themselves a 7-1 hole from which they would never completely escape. Maryland fought back from that early deficit to close to within one at 10-9 but the Tigers responded, principally behind the serve of Cara Mattaliano, - a rotation that gave the Terrapins trouble much of the night - by winning seven of the next nine points to again grab a six point lead. Maryland failed to come closer than two points the rest of the way and Princeton closed the set with the 25-21 win.

Maryland turned things around in the third set and it looked as though the expected order would be restored. This time, it was Maryland that bolted out to a large early lead running up five straight points on Sam Higgenbothem's serve and boosting themselves to 6-1 start to the set. Twice, the Tigers closed to within three but Maryland maintained a firm grip on the set pulling away to a 25-15 win.

The fourth set was highly competitive with neither squad able to string together a long run. Back to back kills by Gia Milana and Liz Twilley gave the Terps a 19-16 advantage. However, following a timeout, Princeton mounted their own charge running off five straight points and taking a 21-19 lead. Maryland responded with three straight of their own but strong defense and some confusion in the Terrapins' defense eventually allowed the Tigers to close out a 25-23 set win.

Princeton's play to open in the fifth set likely set Maryland's fans on edge as the Tigers opened margins of 5-2 and 6-3. Sensing the possibility of a shocking upset, the Terps scratched their way back to tie the score at seven after Twilley and Ashlyn MacGregor combined for a block. Once again, Princeton had an answer and the situation looked rather dire with Maryland facing a 13-10 deficit in a set played to 15. A monster kill by Angel Gaskin and a surprise second ball attack by Taylor Smith closed the gap to one and prompted a Princeton timeout. When the teams returned to the floor, Terps fans got a peek at what could make Gia Milan such a special player as the freshman slammed a ball to the floor and followed that with a solo block to set up match point which also turned out to be the point of the match. With both teams scrambling and diving for balls all over the court, a Princeton error ended the longest and most exciting point of the night and the Terps escaped with the five set win.

Three Terps - Smith (31 assists / 13 digs), Kelsey Wicinski (10 assists / 21 digs) and Milana (19 kills / 11 digs) posted double doubles. Gaskin and Twilley each had double digit kills with 12 and 11 respectively while senior middle blocker Ashlyn MacGregor continued her sterling early play with eight kills on a team leading .667 percentage as well as eight block assists.

Maryland 2 Towson 3

Maryland's lackluster play continued Saturday afternoon. The Terps sleepwalked through the first set. There is no aspect of the game - serving, receiving, passing, setting, attacking or blocking that Maryland did well. Maryland's normally reliable defense was nowhere to be seen as Towson hit a remarkable .423 and had a sideout percentage of 78 while the Terps failed to register a single block. The Terps hit .000 for the set and managed only 41 percent siding out.

Defensively, the second set was marginally better for Maryland as they held Towson to a .195 hitting percentage and picked up three blocks. Unfortunately for the team and the contingent of Terrapins fans on hand, their offense declined. Maryland hit -.051. After Maryland took an early 7-6 lead, Towson rattled off five straight points and the Terps never seriously challenged again.

With their backs against the wall, Maryland seemed to find their footing a bit in the third set. The Terps jumped out to a 2-0 lead and, although the Tigers knotted the score four times, they were never able to pass the Terps. After the final tie at 14, Maryland put together a three point run and more or less managed to maintain that working margin to pick up the 25-22 win.

The fourth set was a back and forth affair featuring eight ties and a pair of lead changes. Maryland held Towson to a .167 hitting percentage and scored a .76 sideout percentage. Down three early, the Terrapins rallied to tie the score at seven. Neither team was able to gain any separation until Maryland broke a 12 all tie by winning five of the next seven points. The Tigers twice crawled within one at 20-19 and 21-20 but Maryland closed out the set winning four of the last five points.

Much as Princeton had done Friday night, Towson sprinted to an early fifth set lead winning the first three points and holding a 4-1 lead. Much as they did Friday, Maryland again clawed back and tied the score at seven before the Tigers again put three points together and managed to edge out to a 10-7 lead. Maryland made two mental errors in this critical stretch when Liz Twilley and Gia Milana failed to communicate and watched a relatively easily returnable serve drop between them and, on the very next point, Kelsey Wicinski misjudged a serve that hit the floor well in front of the line thus giving Towson back to back aces.

Still, the Terps appeared on the verge of overcoming even these lapses when a Milana kill put them within two points of the match at 13-12. But that would be Maryland's last hurrah. Towson won a sideout to even the score and Maryland misplayed two rocket serves eventually setting up easy kills for the Tigers who gained the 15-13 win.
Milana led the Terps with 19 kills and added 11 digs for her third double double of the season. Twilley also reached double digits with 10 kills and Wicinski led the team with 23 digs.

Maryland 3 Georgetown 0

Looking only at the 3-0 score of the Terps' win over Georgetown, fans might be inclined to think that Maryland fully righted the ship against the Hoyas. But this wouldn't be entirely accurate. Issues with their first pass coupled with some problematic sets and questionable choices by Maryland's setters dogged the Terrapins throughout the straight set win.

Georgetown appeared to be in control early in the first set running out to leads of 4-0 and, after Maryland tied the score at four, 10-7. The Terps pulled even at ten but once again, the Hoyas opened up a four point cushion - this time at 17-13. They eventually padded that lead to five at 21-16 but Maryland dug deep and rallied to tie the score for a fourth time at 22 all. With the score tied at 23, the Terps put the set away behind back to back kills by Ashlyn MacGregor and Angel Gaskin.

Where the first set featured five ties and one lead change, the second was even more competitive with seven ties and two lead changes. The Terps held an early 5-1 lead but on this occasion, the home team rallied to nose ahead 6-5. After a string of traded points, the home standing Hoyas put together another small run and edged into an 11-8 lead. Following a Terrapins sideout, strong serving by Sam Higgenbothem allowed the Terps to string together four more points to put Maryland back in front 13-11. Georgetown managed to knot the score at 13 but Maryland asserted their physical and mental superiority and gradually pulled away to a 25-18 win.

The final set of the weekend saw the Hoyas in control early as they raced to leads of 4-2 and 10-4. As they had for much of the first set, the home team held the Terps at bay maintaining that six point lead up to a score of 17-11. Maryland slowly chipped away and won a sideout to close to within three at 19-16. Coach Steve Aird then inserted freshman Megan McTigue and she delivered. Her strong serving pulled the Terps from a three point deficit to a three point lead at a critical juncture in the set. Georgetown was able to pull within one and to save one set point with Maryland ahead 24-21 but a Hoyas' service error closed the match and allowed the Terps to leave McDonough Gym with an 8-2 record.

Ashlyn MacGregor was the only Terrapin to reach double digit kills registering an even dozen on an eye popping .688 hitting percentage.

The Terps take to the road for the big west coast swing where they will face Washington, Oklahoma and USC before they open Big Ten play with three straight road contests. They will return to Xfinity Center on October 2 to host number 21 Illinois.