Maryland volleyball beat Northwestern in five sets Friday night, outlasting the Wildcats to improve its Big Ten record to 3-4. In a thriller, Maryland emerged victorious with set scores of 34-36, 25-23, 24-26, 25-22 and 17-15.
Gia Milana recorded a team-high 20 kills, while Samantha Drechsel recorded 12 and Erika Pritchard, Hailey Murray and Angel Gaskin each had 11. The whole team hit at a clip of .293.
The game remained mostly close in the first, until Maryland went on a small run to make the game 10-7. Northwestern closed the gap once again, but Maryland pulled ahead to 18-13 on a 7-3 run. Two of those Northwestern points were Maryland service errors. The Wildcats were able to make it 19-17 after both Pritchard and Milana made attack errors on back-to-back plays. The score difference held around two points, until the teams tied at 24 through 34. Northwestern finally scored three straight to take the first set, 36-34.
During the final stretch of ties, Maryland had five service and attack errors; the Terps had 15 total service and attack errors as a team.
Maryland took a three point lead early in the second at 9-6. They continued to control the set, after holding the game with a three-point buffer, they extended it to five at 15-10. The Terps made far fewer errors the second set, but they let Northwestern march back, scoring five unanswered to tie it at 18. The teams tied again at 23, but Maryland scored two unanswered off of an Angel Gaskin kill and a Northwestern error to end the set at 25-23.
The Terps had fewer errors in the second set, but the team held a large lead and allowed the Wildcats to get back into a game they should’ve closed out.
Like the end of the second, the third set started close. Neither team seemed to gain any advantage early. Maryland hit a hot streak when they scored four straight to pull ahead at 18-16. They held the lead, building it up to a controlled 24-21, but Northwestern once again battled back, scoring four unanswered to make it 25-24. Two of those points were errors by freshman Terps. The Wildcats finished off the set with a service ace to take it 26-24.
Maryland jumped out to a 7-3 lead in the fourth. They held the lead, but the Wildcats quickly worked to close it, and when the scores passed 10 the set seemed much more like the first and third sets. Finally, the Wildcats tied it at 15. Maryland pulled ahead again to 21-17 after capitalizing on a few Northwestern errors. The Terps extended it to 23-19. They made three more attack errors, making it 23-22. Head coach Steve Aird called a timeout, which allowed the Terps to earn a kill and force an error. Maryland took the fourth set 25-22.
The final set remained close, until after the teams tied at seven. Northwestern scored four unanswered to make it 11-7. Maryland responded with four straight to tie it. The teams tied again at 12 through 15. After an attack error, Jada Gardner earned the final kill to make it 17-15. The Terps took the final set and the match 3-2.
Maryland will play against Illinois, who is 13-5 and 4-2 in Big Ten play, Saturday. Illinois swept Northwestern, and defeated Indiana, who defeated the Terps earlier this season, twice.
Three things to know
- There aren’t many easy games in the Big Ten. Against teams with similar records and skill sets like Northwestern, Maryland will need to make the most of every opportunity. It will be challenging for the Terps to defeat a ranked team, but they can take wins against similar teams in the conference to pad their season in hopes for a playoff run. Sometimes, though, this may come down not just to sets, but points, as seen all night Friday.
- Near-costly blown leads. Maryland blew a five-point lead in the middle of the second set, and a four-point lead late in the third. The Terps managed to escape the second, but lost the third after they let Northwestern score five unanswered. Three of their final points were Maryland errors. Two were service aces.
- Hailey Murray and Angel Gaskin stepped up. Both seniors performed well Friday. Murray recorded 11 kills at a clip of .600, while Gaskin also recorded 11 kills with a .524 clip. The two helped lighten the load for Milana and Pritchard, definitely contributing to the Terps’ win don the stretch.