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Maryland volleyball narrowly misses out on NCAA Tournament

The Terps just missed receiving an at-large bid to the Big Dance for the second straight year.

Maryland volleyball Courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Maryland volleyball failed to reach the NCAA Tournament after posting its best Big Ten record and highest conference finish in program history.

The Terps finished the regular season with an 18-14 record, equaling their record from 2017, with a 9-11 Big Ten record, the most conference wins in program history. Maryland’s eighth-place finish was its best since joining the conference, improving on a 10th-place finish in 2017. The Terps were also 53rd in RPI coming into this weekend, where they went 1-1.

The season was highlighted by conference sweeps against Iowa, Rutgers and Ohio State and the program’s first-ever road win against a ranked opponent and first conference win against Michigan, a 3-0 sweep in Ann Arbor against the then 15thranked Wolverines.

Maryland’s win against Michigan was the only ranked win of the season, and the overall record would have looked better if not for five-set losses to South Carolina at home and Princeton. The Gamecocks came into the weekend ranked 32nd in RPI, and finished the season with a 19-9 record and 10-8 conference record. Princeton was ranked 49th in RPI coming into this weekend, finishing with a 19-6 regular season record and 12-2 conference record.

Maryland was the first team out of the 2017 NCAA Tournament. Despite the same record with better quality wins, more conference wins and a similar RPI, the selection committee left the Terps out again.

The program was overshadowed to begin the season, projected to finish 13th in the conference after losing head coach Steve Aird to Indiana and top players Gia Milana, Samantha Dreschel, Kelsey Wicinski and Angel Gaskin to transfer. Aird’s assistant coach, Adam Hughes, was brought in to take over the reins. In his first season, the program was as good if not better than Aird’s best season at Maryland.

Several players stepped up for Maryland in 2018. Erika Pritchard filled the void left by the departed outside hitters, leading the Terps with 493 kills and pacing the Big Ten with 4.32 kills per set. Katie Myers also had a big season from the serving line, leading the conference with 53 service aces and 0.46 aces per set. Allegra Rivas, who wasn’t expected to have a major impact on the team, finished the season with 522 digs and was fourth in the Big Ten with 4.58 digs per set. Nicole Alford was the first Maryland player since 2011 to finish a season with 1,000 assists or more, finishing with 1,117. Alford also was ninth in the Big Ten with 9.80 assists per set.

Despite just missing out on the tournament for the second straight year, it was a successful season for Hughes and the Terps as they look towards 2019.