Maryland women’s volleyball went 1-1 on the final day of the Maryland challenge, defeating Oklahoma 3-0 Friday morning before falling to No. 7 Washington 3-0 at night. The Terps go 2-1 in the challenge and enter Big Ten play 11-1, their best start to a season under Steve Aird.
Maryland 3, Oklahoma 0
Maryland had another straight set win to start day two, defeating Oklahoma 25-19, 25-15 and 25-23 to move to 11-0 for the first time since 2005.
Gia Milana led the way with 14 kills for the Terps, and Hailey Murray and Samantha Drechsel had nine and seven, respectively. Murray also had a huge game defensively, finishing with eight blocks. Maryland was impressive and consistent on offense, finishing with a .362 hitting percentage for the match, and never had a set where they hit below .333.
The Terps were without middle blocker Katie Myers, who aggravated a previous knee injury in Thursday night’s win over No. 18 USC. Freshman Jada Gardner made her first career start in her place and finished with five kills and four blocks.
Alyssa Enneking led the Sooners with 16 kills, and Morgan Miller also finished in double digits with 10. The duo combined to for a .478 hitting percentage, but their teammates struggled and hit -.076.
It was a slow start for Maryland in the first set, as Oklahoma jumped out to an 8-3 lead in the first set. Enneking had her way early, with 7 kills in the Sooners’ first 12 points. The Terps used some strong blocking to get back into the set, and ended it on a 9-0 run to pull away for a 25-19 win. Oklahoma struggled down the stretch with four errors in the run.
Maryland’s dominance continued in set two, scoring the first six points of the set and jumping out to a 15-4 lead. The Terps looked fresh throughout the set, while the Sooners looked tired and were unable to handle Maryland’s attack. The Terps gave Oklahoma 10 free points on errors, including five straight to cut the lead to 23-15. However, kills from Milana and Drechsel put it away.
The teams exchanged the first 18 points of the third set, but Oklahoma was the first team to jump out to a slight advantage, taking a 13-10 lead after a Gardner error. But both teams continued to go back-and-forth and the third set was tied at 18.
The Terps were the cleaner team after that, committing just one error compared to the Sooners’ three, and Gaskin had a kill to put away the match.
No. 7 Washington 3, Maryland 0
Maryland faced much tougher competition in its second match of the day, and could never keep up with the No. 7 Huskies, losing 25-11, 25-19 and 25-16 for its first loss of the season.
Murray had another efficient match, finishing with seven kills on just nine attempts. She didn’t get much help from her teammates, as Milana finished with eight kills and hit just .132, and both Pritchard and Drechsel had negative hitting percentages.
Courtney Schwan led Washington with 11 kills, and the Huskies hit .319 in the match compared to Maryland’s .096.
Schwan started off the match will a kill for Washington, who would never trail in the first set. The Terps cut it to 6-5, but struggled to generate an attack after that.
The Huskies dominated the rest of the set, hitting .640 with no errors on their way to a 25-11 win. It looked like playing three games in two days was catching up to Maryland, as it struggled to get to the spots they were in consistently during the first two matches. Numerous times throughout the first set, Milana and Kelsey Wicinski watched as their diving attempts came up just short.
Washington continued to attack in the second set, jumping out to a 10-4 lead. The Terps wouldn’t get closer than four for the rest of the set, and the Huskies took set two 25-19.
The teams exchanged the first 10 points of the third set, but then the Huskies went on an 11-2 run to take control and put the match out of reach.
Despite losing the last match, it was a successful weekend. Before this weekend, the Terps had gone just 1-8 set in the challenge, and hadn’t taken a set against Washington or USC. Maryland was able to upset the Trojans this weekend, and competed with the Huskies for short stretches. As Steve Aird is fond of saying, the Terps have long way to go, but this weekend was a step in the right direction.
Maryland had some changes at setter. Coming into the Maryland challenge, Samantha Snyder and Taylor Smith had been the main setters in the Terps’ 6-2 formation. Late in the first set, Smith had two ball handling errors and was replaced by junior Abigail Bentz. Bentz rotated with Snyder for the rest of the match, and it stayed that way for the rest of the weekend. Bentz finished the weekend with 4.50 assists per set, under Smith’s season average of 5.0, but she didn’t make as many mistakes defensively.
Now the fun begins. Maryland has entered Big Ten play with a winning record every year under Aird, but has never gotten more than five wins in conference play. The Terps start off Big Ten play with four games on the road, including three against ranked teams Ohio State, Michigan, and Michigan State who aren’t even at the top of the conference. The other game is against Indiana, who Maryland beat last year at home to end the season.
The Terps have lost at least eight straight games to start conference play in their three years in the conference, so getting some early wins could provide some confidence for more grueling stretches later on.