Maryland volleyball was by no means perfect in its home opener Monday night against Howard, but when it mattered most, the Terps dug their heels in and pulled through for a five-set victory.
Led by Erika Pritchard’s game-high 17 kills, the Terps overcame a defeat in the fourth set to grind out a win in the tiebreak for the second consecutive game, holding off the Bison 15-9 to cap off a 3-2 victory and an undefeated start to the season.
“Not a phenomenal performance from us, but glad to be able to get a five-set win,” coach Adam Hughes said. “I like that the group stepped up and was finding a way to get it done, but the crowd for sure helped and it was nice to be at home.”
While it got the win, Maryland was up and down the entire night, showing inconsistency on both sides of the net.
Despite overwhelming Howard with 52 kills, the Terps struggled on offense, committing 42 total errors, including 16 on the service. While Maryland thrived in sets one and three to gain control in the match, it allowed the Bison to even the score in sets two and four. Fortunately for the Terps, the tiebreak set bounced in their favor.
“I think we pride ourselves on being a pretty good serving team. In the first two matches of the year against Austin Peay and Kansas State, I thought that was our strength,” Hughes said. “When we didn’t do that tonight, I think that kind of got a little bit under our skin and I think it kind of threw us off a little bit.”
Maryland had seven service errors in the opening set, but made up for it on the attack, recording 12 kills to take the early 1-0 match lead.
Howard’s grit showed at the end of the second set, when it looked like Maryland was on its way to another close set win. Down 24-20, the Bison fought off three Maryland set points, going on a 6-0 run to take the set 26-24, tying the match at one set apiece.
“When we had the lead and we were hot [at] set point, I think we kind of just let their side dictate things that we were doing,” middle blocker Katie Myers said.
The Terps hit .323 with 13 kills in the third set, leading by as much as 11 as it coasted to a 25-16 set win and a 2-1 match lead. Pritchard recorded six kills in the set.
Set four included six runs for at least three points or more. Howard took advantage of those runs, going on an early 6-0 run to take a 13-9 lead and a 5-0 run to take a 21-19 lead late. Those, along with Maryland’s .029 hitting percentage in the set, sent the match to a fifth-set tiebreaker as Howard won 25-21.
The Terps shook off the cobwebs from the fourth set in the fifth, leading from the outset and never letting Howard get comfortable. Maryland hit .250 in the tiebreak and finished the match off on a 5-1 scoring run to stay perfect on the season.
Three things to know
1. Erika Pritchard cannot be stopped. The junior went off on Monday night, hitting .295 with 17 kills on four attack errors. Pritchard also led the Terps with 11 digs, showing her versatility on the court.
2. It was a block party against Howard. Maryland recorded 12 total blocks in the match, an average of 2.4 blocks per set. In a match where the Terps struggled on offense, their defense stepped up big time. Katie Myers led with eight total blocks.
3. The assisting game was rocky with Nicole Alford out. Alford has yet to appear in a game for the Terps this season and the team has yet to figure out who its steady setter is. Samantha Snyder and Taylor Smith once again split the assisting duties, recording 23 and 19 assists respectively.