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Maryland volleyball falls in 4 sets to No. 10 Penn State

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Coach Steve Aird couldn’t lead the Terps to an upset over his former team.

Courtesy of Maryland volleyball

Maryland volleyball coach Steve Aird is still searching for a win over his alma mater, but not for the lack of trying. The Terps fell to No. 10 Penn State in four sets, with set scores of 25-21, 22-25, 18-25, 18-25.

The sold-out crowd of 1,808—an Xfinity Center Pavilion record—spurred Maryland onto a quick start, but the momentum could not last the entirety of the match.

Freshmen Gia Milana and Taylor Smith both had double-doubles. Milana led the Terps with 20 kills and chipped in with 11 digs, and Smith set a new career-high with 17 digs to add to her 37 assists. Libero Kelsey Wicinski also had a good match with 19 digs, as the Terps held the Nittany Lions to a .186 hitting percentage.

Maryland grabbed a slim first-set lead at 5-4 with the aid of three Penn State attacking errors. Nine errors in the first set is unlike the Nittany Lions, who have the fewest errors in the Big Ten.

But the Terps did a lot of good on their own, too, including a 5-0 run to go up 14-11 before Penn State called a timeout. Maryland would push it to 17-12 before the Nittany Lions tied it at 18. The Terps held on well despite dropping the first set point.

Simone Lee had four kills in the first set, but Penn State’s leading attacker struggled like the rest of the Nittany Lions with four errors in the first set. The Terps played clean first-set volleyball, hitting .273 as a team despite another negative start from senior Ashlyn MacGregor.

Penn State regained control with a quick start to the second set. Maryland hung around, but struggled to challenge the Nittany Lions until late, slimming the lead to 19-17. That would be as close as the Terps could make it, dropping the set 25-22. Maryland showed a lot of fight to break the Nittany Lions’ first two set points, but MacGregor’s service error finished off the set.

The tight end to the second set was not carried over to set three. Penn State handled the Terps, leading by as many as nine in its 25-18 win. The Terps went on a 6-0 run to narrow the frame before two errors closed out any chance at a late comeback.

Maryland played Penn State tightly to start the fourth set, but the Nittany Lions jumped out to a comfortable lead in the late teens. They held on to win the set 25-18, and the match in four sets. Only two errors in the fourth set for Penn State helped to close out the match.

Three things to know:

  1. Early blocking brought success to the Terps. Maryland had five total blocks in the first set, with MacGregor leading with two. Liz Twilley, Milana and MacGregor each had a solo block en route to the 25-21 win. Even in losing the second set, Angel Gaskin stood out for the Terps with three kills and two blocks in the set. As the Terps struggled in the last two sets, so did their blocking results, but MacGregor still led the Terps with six blocks.
  2. Penn State got it done despite an error-filled night from Simone Lee. The Wisconsin native leads the Big Ten in kills, and she tallied 17 on Friday. But the junior struggled with 12 errors, primarily in the first two sets. Haleigh Washington, Heidi Thelen and Tori Gorrell picked up the slack with 25 kills between them. All three hit at least .250 as well.
  3. Maryland stayed in the match even with Penn State’s serving success. The Nittany Lions had eight aces against the Terps. Meanwhile, Megan McTigue hit Maryland’s lone ace as the Terps struggled with 11 errors. While the ratio is not pretty, McTigue showed a lot of strong serves throughout the match, which is a good sign for the freshman as she rotates into the squad.