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Maryland volleyball falls in straight sets to Illinois

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The Terps could not mount a late comeback as they fell to the Illini for the second time this year.

Courtesy of Maryland Volleyball

Maryland volleyball fell against Illinois in straight sets to open the Terps’ last road trip of the season, with set scores of 19-25, 19-25, 25-27.

The Terps (11-18, 3-14) could not keep it as close on the road as they did at home. In October, Maryland fell in its Big Ten home opener to the Illini in a close five sets. The Illinois win breaks a streak of seven straight losses.

It was a sloppier night for Maryland’s attack. Big Ten Freshman of the Week Gia Milana led the Terps with 12 kills, but struggled with nine errors and a .075 hitting percentage. Angel Gaskin chipped in eight kills but also had eight errors. Liz Twilley hit the cleanest of the top attackers, with eight kills and two errors. It was a forgettable night, and much better is needed against a very beatable Northwestern team on Saturday.

Illinois took the first set 25-19, but the Terps held a lead for some time. Gaskin led the charge to give Maryland a 13-9 first-set lead, but the 5-0 Terps run was facilitated by two Illinois attacking errors. After a timeout, the Illini quickly closed the gap again, and retook the lead at 18-17 after three-straight Katie Stadick kills.

Before an Illinois timeout at the 13-9 mark, the Illini hit .176. The timeout cleaned up their play, hitting .344 to close the set. The Terps went in the opposite direction, hitting eight errors en route to a .135 hitting percentage.

The Terps kept the second set close, but Illinois won it 25-19. Brandi Donnelly, the Big Ten leader in digs, showed off just that in the set. She laid out completely for a pancake dig to keep it alive for the Illini. Jordyn Poulter took advantage of it to put Illinois up 13-12. Illinois would go on to stretch its lead with a 7-2 run, heading into the break up two sets on the Terps.

The Terps did not go away easily in the third set despite a fast start from Illinois. Maryland’s 4-0 run narrowed the set to 21-17, and the Terps had their first block of the night after Ashlyn MacGregor and Gaskin combined to block Jacquelin Quade. Maryland earned a set point following an Abigail Bentz ace, but the Terps could not finish the deal. Illinois won the set in a fitting manner, an Ali Bastianelli and Poulter block, winning the set 27-25.

Three things to know:

  1. Bastianelli and Illinois dominated the blocking game. Bastianelli leads the country in blocks, with 1.72 per set. The Illini dominated early, with six blocks to Maryland’s zero in the first set. Illinois finished the match with 11 blocks, Bastianelli leading with nine total. Maryland did not get its first block until the third set, finishing with three total.
  2. After a breakout serving match against Rutgers, Maryland stayed clean. Maryland put up 13 aces against the Scarlet Knights on Sunday. Granted, they were without two receivers in their 3-0 loss in College Park, but 13 aces last Sunday is an impressive number. The Terps could not put up that many on Friday, but four aces and only two serving errors came in handy down the stretch. Taylor Smith led the Terps with two aces.
  3. Illinois’ middle blockers added a lot more than blocking to the match. Bastianelli and Katie Stadick both were big in the attacking game. Stadick had 11 kills and did it with a .667 hitting percentage. Bastianelli added nine kills to her blocking exhibition. The Terps saw similar involvement at times this season from senior Ashlyn MacGregor, but she has been quiet as of late. On Friday, MacGregor had 3 kills and added two blocks late in the match.