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Maryland volleyball is still searching for first Big Ten win after getting swept by Iowa

Errors hurt the Terps again.

Maryland Volleyball Noah Niederhoffer

Maryland volleyball fell in straight sets to Iowa (11-4, 1-2) Wednesday night, leaving the Terps still winless in Big Ten play. A tight first set between the two teams relented into Iowa taking control, winning with set scores of 25-22, 25-21, and 25-16.

A win in Iowa City and Maryland (8-7, 0-3) would have been in good shape to improve on its 5-15 Big Ten record from the season before. But the Terps’ loss means improvement will have to come against stronger competition down the road. The Terps beat the Hawkeyes twice last season, and will have a chance at redemption in mid-October.

The first set was extremely close, but Iowa pulled away. Up 19-17 in the set, Maryland went on to drop it 25-22. Iowa senior Lexley Keala led the line with 14 assists, aiding Iowa’s 16 first set kills against the Terps. Six errors, with several costly late in the set, put Maryland in another hole early in a match.

Iowa jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the second set before the Terps could put points on the board. The Hawkeyes kept Maryland at bay throughout the set, winning 25-21. The Terps mounted a small comeback, narrowing the score to 21-18. The subsequent Iowa timeout closed the door on Maryland’s second-set chances. A .042 hitting percentage and 13 errors from the Terps was the crux of the issue.

Maryland came out early following the second set break to practice passing, getting back to the basics before its deciding third set. But a Maryland service error to start the third set created the tone that finished off the Terps’ 3-game road trip. Iowa led by as many as nine points in the third set on its way to a 25-16 win.

Maryland switched up its starting lineup from its first two Big Ten matches. Senior setter Whitney Craigo got the start over freshman Taylor Smith. Craigo went in for Smith in the latter part of the Wisconsin game on Saturday and posted 16 assists against the Badgers.

Smith would end up rotating in for Craigo throughout the match, pitching in 12 assists in the match to 8 assists from Craigo.

Junior Jess Janota led Iowa with 12 kills, and Keala led both teams with 32 assists. Maryland freshman Gia Milana had her Big Ten career high with 12 kills, while Ashlyn MacGregor and Angel Gaskin combined for four blocks.

Maryland will play its Big Ten home opener on Sunday against No. 24 Illinois (9-5, 2-1). The Illini fell to No. 1 Nebraska, but kept the match close. Illinois began its Big Ten campaign with victories over Purdue and Rutgers.

Three things to know:

1. Attacking errors continue to hurt the Terps in key moments. Maryland has posted more than 20 errors in all three of its Big Ten matches this season, with a total of 24 against Iowa. The Hawkeyes bounced back from its nightmarish 32 errors against Michigan to post 14 total errors, including only four in the second set.

2. Maryland’s serving was much better. One of the few positive takeaways from the match against Iowa was Maryland’s five aces in comparison with its seven service errors. The balance was much better than against Wisconsin, in which the Terps had one ace and eight service errors.

3. Maryland’s play was a letdown after a promising final set against Wisconsin. Iowa posed a good chance for the Terps to pick up its first conference victory of the year, but it did not happen. Credit should go to Iowa for playing a much cleaner game than it did against Michigan. Coach Aird will be busy leading up to Sunday, when Illinois comes to College Park. The Illini put up a strong performance against No. 1 Nebraska.