Maryland volleyball lost to Minnesota in straight sets in the team’s Big Ten opener Friday night in Minneapolis. The No. 2 Golden Gophers (25-13, 25-14, 25-12) controlled the match from the beginning, giving no doubt as to the identity of the winner early on. Maryland falls to 0-4 against ranked teams this season, having lost in straight sets all four times.
Minnesota won the first set, 25-13, and things didn’t slow down. Maryland was forced to take a timeout after the Gophers’ 7-1 start, but was unable to slow down a powerful Minnesota attack led by Sarah Wilhite and Paige and Hannah Tapp.
Minnesota had 14 kills in the first set, though Maryland’s seven errors did not help the cause. Often, the Terps were forced to send the ball back over the net without any real kill attempt against the Golden Gophers. The same would continue throughout the next two sets.
Maryland managed to keep the start of the second set tight with Minnesota leading 6-5, but wasn’t able to keep up with the Gophers for long, however, who went on to put away the Terps 25-14. Maryland’s hitting percentage of .026 in the second set says it all. Nine errors in the second set for the Terps made the job too easy for Minnesota.
Maryland took its sole lead of the match in the third set, 4-3. The lead was short-lived, as Minnesota went on to have its most dominant set, defeating the Terps 25-12. Maryland admirably went on a small run of four unanswered points in the final set, getting as close as 23-11 before Minnesota finished off the match.
Wilhite, with 15 kills, and Samantha Seliger-Swenson, with 33 assists, led Minnesota. Taylor Smith and Ashlyn MacGregor led the Terps in hitting percentage with .444. Smith, the freshman setter, chipped in five kills and led Maryland with 19 assists, while Angel Gaskin led the Terps with six kills.
It was a tough start to Gia Milana’s Big Ten career after a strong non-conference campaign. The promising freshman led the team with nine errors to add to her five kills. Overall, the Terps had 23 errors and a .023 hitting percentage.
Much like the Terps’ preseason tournament, keeping each set close seems to be the goal for a young Maryland team. After another straight-set defeat in its fourth match against a ranked opponent, Maryland will try to change that narrative tomorrow night against Wisconsin.
The loss drops the Terps to 8-5 on the season. Maryland will travel 268 miles southeast from Minneapolis to Madison to take on the No. 3 Wisconsin Badgers on Saturday night. The Badgers handled their Friday night matchup against No. 17 Ohio State well, sweeping the Buckeyes.
Three things to know:
1. Maryland must cut down on errors. There was little chance the Gophers would have lost even if the Terps had cut down on their 23 errors, but the game could have been closer. The Gophers’ attack left the Terps unorganized in most returns, leaving themselves susceptible to 42 Minnesota kills.
2. Maryland’s youth will take time to develop. The No. 16 recruiting class in the country will be great, but will need a learning curve. It will be a little while before the six Maryland freshmen can compete evenly with a senior-dominated starting lineup like Minnesota’s. The Big Ten is a different animal for the freshmen to adapt to, with eight of 14 teams ranked in the top 25.
3. Maryland didn’t lie down. Even trailing by 16 points in the third set, with the match all but done, the Terps’ run of four points showed that for a young team, there is a good fight about them.