Maryland volleyball head coach Steve Aird has frequently emphasized focusing on the games one at a time, only worrying about their next opponent when they’re done with this one. But after defeating No. 17 Purdue Sunday, the Terps have four top-15 teams on the horizon, playing all on the road.
“This is where it kinda flips,” Aird said. “The fact that we have Nebraska twice, Penn State, Minnesota, Wisconsin, it puts more of an emphasis on what we’re doing. We could play great and still lose all of those matches.”
With their 16th win coming against a ranked team, the Terps put themselves into the tournament conversation, albeit on the bubble.
“That was a huge win to get us into a more certain spot,” junior Abigail Bentz said, “but I think we have to keep in mind that we aren’t going to make it unless we keep going every single game trying to get better.”
“Now that we picked off Purdue, we’re just looking for our next team to pick off,” freshman Samantha Drechsel said.
The going will be tough for the Terps. Four of their last eight games come against the top three teams in the conference. They also will face Ohio State, to whom they lost earlier this season, and Northwestern, who took them to five sets in a Maryland win, at home.
“It’s definitely going to help us in the long run, it’s going to be hard for these next couple weeks,” Drechsel said. “I think like after we get through this, we can take on anything.”
Maryland had seven service aces against Purdue, its second-most since conference play started.
“I think it’s definitely a way we can affect the game in a huge way, especially against teams that are so good,” said Bentz, who was brought in for her short serve late in the fifth set Sunday.
She replaced Drechsel, who added two service aces herself, continuing her impressive freshman season.
“I trusted myself to get my serve over, but it was kind of a relief like knowing that one of my upperclassman can like come in and ... get it done,” Drechsel said.
Aird also mentioned working to develop his team’s service, comparing having a good rotation to changing speeds in baseball. The ability to do that takes experience, which is what the Terps will get out of this upcoming tough stretch.
“We’re never going to win these stretches of games until we train and keep getting better and get some more experience, and the only way to get experience is to go and play the matches,” Aird said. “Every team I’ve coached here, we’ve been our best at the end of the year, so I would assume in the next few weeks we’ll keep getting better.”