In Illinois’ annual Dig Pink game, the Fighting Illini took the court in light pink alternate jerseys, en route to dropping Maryland in straight sets 25-21, 25-18, 25-22.
Erika Pritchard, Gia Milana and Hailey Murray led the Terps with nine, nine and 8.5 kills, respectively. They were really the only offense the Terps could find. Abagail Bentz and Sam Burgio led the team in digs, each with 10.
Noticeably absent was junior libero Kelsey Wicinski, who missed her second game in her home state in as many days. She’s had her left thigh wrapped for several matches now, so whatever was ailing her may finally have been enough to keep her out (unless it was something completely different).
The Terps started out hot, leading most of the first set behind the swinging arms of Gia Milana and Erika Pritchard, but at 16-12, the Illini went on a 7-1 run, taking a 19-17 lead into the home stretch. After a few back and forth points, Illinois was able to hold off Maryland’s late push, and won 25-21.
The second set was much different. The Illini jumped out to a 10-5 lead and never looked back. Maryland threatened to get back in it several times, but ultimately couldn’t muster enough of an attack to close the gap. Illinois went on a 4-0 run to go up 22-14, and rolled to a 25-18 victory.
The third and final set was much of the same. Illinois jumped out to an early 6-1 lead before Steve Aird called a timeout, which seemingly stemmed the tide. The Terps came out with two straight points, but never got any closer than two points from the Illini, who went on to win the set 25-22.
With the loss, the Terps fall to 14-6 overall and 3-5 in the Big Ten. Maryland is back in action on Oct. 18, when it welcomes Wisconsin to the Xfinity Center Pavilion to start a four-game home stand.
Three things to know
1. Kelsey Wicinski’s absence hurts Maryland. No earth-shattering news here, but she’s a great defender who’s almost always in the right place to dig out a would-be kill. The Terps were able to win in five sets without her Friday night, but couldn’t keep the ball off the ground in this one.
2. The Terps will be great, but they’re not quite ready yet. It was a match reminiscent of many this season for the Terps, who have repeatedly been unable to keep their foot on the gas after taking early leads. It’s also characteristic of a growing team that plays with a lot of energy and will eventually be able to sustain it for entire sets. We’ve seen what this team is capable of (see: sweep of USC), but it’s just not quite there yet.
3. Erika Pritchard’s versatility was on display. She was tied for the team lead in points, kills and aces, in addition to being tied for third in digs. It was an all-around performance from the freshman, and one that should serve as a look into the future of Maryland volleyball.