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Maryland volleyball sweeps Rutgers in Big Ten home opener

The Terps have their second win of the conference season.

maryland volleyball Gabe Fernandez/Testudo Times

Maryland volleyball defeated Rutgers Friday night in straight sets. The Terps picked up their second Big Ten win of the season on Pride Night in Xfinity Center Pavilion.

Freshman Jada Gardner stepped up, recording eight kills and only two errors for a clip of .600. Her fellow freshman Samantha Dreschel also got the start, earning five kills with four errors.

Sophomore Gia Milana and freshman Erika Pritchard had their number called often, as per usual. Milana recorded 10 kills and Pritchard nine, but the two also combined for thirteen attack errors, which cost the team early. They turned to their team for help and got it, as six Terps had four kills or more.

Maryland struggled to open the first set, falling behind 8-4. Five of those points were attack errors, and the Scarlet Knights only recorded one kill in that period. The Terps then began a defiant 8-1 run, complete with strong kills, a service ace, and a block from Milana.

That run set the tone for the rest of the set, as Maryland held onto a fluctuating lead. The Terps ended the set on a strong note however, taking the set 25-18. They finished the first set with better attack then they had started, but still recorded eight attack errors and four service errors in that set alone.

Maryland opened the second set on a similar note to the first. When head coach Steve Aird called timeout at 6-1, the Terps had already made four attacking errors and had recorded no kills. They eventually battled back to make it a one point game at 10-9, despite only two of Rutgers’ points coming from their own kills.

The Terps continued to be their own worst enemy, until they caught a break. After trailing 15-11, Maryland tied the set at 16. Maryland finally took control behind Pritchard’s service, making it 20-17 Terps. The Scarlet Knights battled back to tie it at 20 and 22. Maryland recorded the three final kills necessary to end it there, taking the second set 25-22.

Once again, Maryland’s errors were the difference, as they erred on 10 attacks and five serves. They recorded more than double the Scarlet Knights’ kills, but couldn’t manage to win by more than three.

The third set started better for Maryland in that they didn’t need to climb out of a hole they dug themselves. It started close, but Maryland recorded kills at a consistent rate and limited mistakes. The margin wasn’t more than one point until a Rutgers attack error made the set 11-9. The Scarlet Knights tied it up again at 12. Maryland scored four straight, sparking a run similar to that in the first set. Pritchard recorded the kill that put the nail in the coffin, giving Maryland the sweep at 25-17.

Maryland reduced their number of attack errors to just three in the final set, and recorded kills at a much higher rate, showing what they’re capable of.

The Scarlet Knights fell to 5-12 and 0-5 in the conference. The team has yet to win a set in Big Ten play. On the other hand, Friday night’s match was the first home conference game for the Terps, who earned a 1-3 record on the road.

Three things to know

  1. Errors, man. Frankly, none of the sets should have been so close. The Terps found themselves in a hole multiple times due to their own mistakes, not Rutgers’ success. The Terrapins had size and skill on their side, and though they ultimately won, they can’t make these mistakes if they expect to beat other Big Ten opponents.
  2. Official improvement. With this win, Aird’s Terps have already recorded more wins than last season, and are halfway to their number of in-conference wins. With plenty of time remaining in the season, this will not be a measure of if they can improve over last season, but by how much.
  3. A massive challenge is now on deck. On Saturday, Maryland faces No. 3 Penn State for the toughest test yet this season. Maryland is 1-3 against ranked opponents thus far, but Penn State will be by far the highest ranked. The Nittany Lions have lost—to Nebraska—but it will be a tall order for the Terps. That, paired with the fact that it will be played on the Xfinity Center main floor and that Penn State is where Aird used to work, make Saturday’s match a must-watch.