Maryland volleyball dropped both games in Michigan on its weekend road trip, falling to Michigan on Friday and Michigan State on Saturday. The Terps drop to 8-10 on the season, and are 0-6 to start conference play.
“If we put together a pretty good batch in Michigan, I’ll be happy, because I think we’re going in the right direction,” Maryland Coach Steve Aird said following his team’s five-set loss to Illinois a week ago.
The Terps did just that on back-to-back nights against two ranked opponents, losing to No. 23 Wolverines and the No. 21 Spartans each by a score of 3-1.
Maryland didn’t capture its first Big Ten win of the season, but it didn’t get blown out by two tough opponents.
“I'd like to get to the point where we're competitive with teams like [Illinois] all the time," Aird said last week.
The Terps nearly took set one against the Wolverines on Friday, losing out 27-25. Michigan won second set went in easier fashion, but Maryland forced a fourth set against Michigan. The Terps ultimately fell with set scores of 25-27, 18-25, 25-21, 21-25.
Defensively, Maryland dominated in blocks, leading Michigan 15-6 in the category. Surprisingly it was not Ashlyn MacGregor, who ranks second in the Big Ten in blocks, leading the Terps. Hailey Murray and Angel Gaskin both had seven blocks.
“I thought we did some really good things tonight, but we made too many errors late in the game,” Aird said following the match.
It was a similar sentiment as against Illinois. In the first three sets against Michigan, the Terps had no more than five errors in a set, but the eight errors in the final fourth set sealed the win for Michigan.
Saturday night, it was more obvious that Maryland was coming off of a tough match the night before. A slow start and a slow finish lost it for the Terps despite a strong middle, as they won set two in the process against Michigan State. The 3-1 defeat came with set scores of 16-25, 25-22, 20-25, 17-25.
Maryland was out-blocked 12-5 against Michigan State, but did beat the Big Ten-leading Spartans in aces, seven to six. Freshman Gia Milana had a career-high 21 kills against Michigan State to round off an impressive homecoming to her native Michigan.
The Terps held a lead during the fourth set, but a 12-1 run from Michigan State closed out the fourth set in East Lansing. Perhaps in front of the Xfinity Center Pavilion’s crowd such a run would not have happened, but the young team on its second road game in two nights could not find an answer for the attack. In fact, Maryland’s only point during the run came from a Michigan State service error, one of the team’s uncharacteristic 14 on the night.
While the Terps are winless in the Big Ten, there are encouraging signs from this young team. Three straight matches, Maryland has won at least a set, breaking a streak of four straight-sets losses prior to losing to Illinois a week ago.
Three things to know:
1. Maryland’s freshmen are improving. Milana stood out in a return to her home state. She had back-to-back double-doubles with 16 kills and 15 digs against Michigan, and then a career-high 21 kills, 11 digs, and a .273 hitting percentage. Taylor Smith had 41 assists against Michigan and 35 against Michigan State.
2. Terps bounce back in serving game after no aces against Michigan. Maryland’s 11 aces kept the Terps in the match last Sunday against Illinois. The same can be said of Maryland’s seven aces against Michigan State on Saturday, including three each from Sam Higginbothem and Smith. Compared to Maryland’s 14 service errors against Illinois and eight against Michigan, the Terps’ five against Michigan State was a welcome sight.
3. There was a significant drop off in the attacking play after Milana’s 21 kills Saturday night. The next closest was MacGregor with 6 kills. Angel Gaskin and Liz Twilley’s involment reduced against Michigan State. They had 5 and 4 kills, respectively. There was a much more even distribution against Michigan, with Milana at 16 kills and Gaskin and Twilley following with nine each.