Maryland volleyball started its 2018 season on a positive note, finishing 2-1 in a tournament over the weekend in North Carolina. After a turbulent offseason that featured a head coaching change and several player moves, the Terps looked to build off the success from last season.
Maryland ended last season ranked 51st in RPI, the highest of the four teams in the tournament (although the Terps lost head coach Steve Aird and multiple key players from last year’s team). UNC Greensboro was the closest ranked 138th. Maryland, Air Force and UNCG all finished with a 2-1 record.
Here’s a quick recap of what happened:
Friday night: Maryland 3, Wake Forest 0
The Terps began on Friday with a straight-set victory over Wake Forest. Maryland had a .270 hitting percentage and 40 kills overall, with just 13 errors in the three sets. The Demon Deacons had 23 errors in the match.
In set one, Wake Forest took an early 2-0 lead, but Maryland quickly responded, going on a 17-8 run to take a commanding 17-10 advantage. The Demon Deacons made a little run at the end of the set, but the Terps finished on an 8-7 run to win 25-17. In set two, Maryland dominated, going on two separate 8-0 runs to take the set, 25-15.
Set three was much closer, as both teams went back and forth. There were 19 ties and seven lead changes in the set. Wake Forest built up an 18-15 lead before Maryland came back and eventually won the set and match, 31-29.
Maryland benefitted from seven aces, nine blocks and 45 digs in the match. Sophomores Jada Gardner and Erika Pritchard led the Terps with 12 and 11 kills respectively. Senior Liz Twilley added eight kills of her own. Freshman Allegra Rivas and Pritchard led the way with 17 and 10 digs in the match. Sophomore transfer Nicole Alford let the way with 26 set assists.
Saturday morning: Maryland 3, UNCG 0
The Terps dominated the match, with 49 kills, a .318 hitting percentage, four blocks, 45 assists and 45 digs, all higher than UNCG. Other than aces, the Terps bettered the Spartans in every statistical category in the match.
In set one, Maryland went down 4-2 early, but the Terps benefitted from a 5-0 and 6-0 run to take the frame, 25-19. UNCG started well in set two, leading as much as 9-6. After that point, Maryland went on a 19-10 run to win the set 25-19. Set three was the closest, with the Spartans leading as late as 14-11, their largest lead of the set. But Maryland took over, ending the set and the match on a 14-7 run to win the set 25-21 and win in straight sets.
Pritchard and freshman Rainelle Jones led the way with 17 and 14 kills, respectively. Alford led the team with 38 assists and Rivas led with 15 digs.
Saturday night: Air Force 3, Maryland 2
In Maryland’s last match of the tournament, they lost a close five-setter to Air Force. Despite Maryland’s higher hitting percentage at .219, Air Force had more kills, 63-56, more aces, 11-3, more assists, 58-55, and more digs, 68-63.
Set one went to Maryland. The Terps led for most of the set, then pulled away from 14-13 to make it 22-15, and held off a late run to win 25-21. Air Force took the next two sets. In set two, the Falcons went on runs of 7-2 and 6-1 early in the set, eventually winning 25-22.
Air Force benefitted from seven Terp errors in the third set, but the Falcons caused 11 errors of their own, winning 25-21. Set four was close, but the Terps pulled out a win to even up the match. Maryland took advantage of 10 errors from the Falcons to win 26-24 and go to the tiebreaker fifth set.
Air Force took the early lead in the fifth, jumping ahead 5-2. Maryland failed to catch up, losing the set 15-12 and the match 3-2.
The Terps were once again led by Gardner and Pritchard with a combined 34 kills. Rivas and Alford posted 23 combined digs, and Alford led the way with a whopping 50 of the team’s 55 assists.
Staying on track
This was the first opportunity for new head coach Adam Hughes to play with lineups and change rotations on the court. Maryland has a young roster, but showed some of its promise over the weekend
All three true freshman saw playing time over the weekend, but it was the sophomores who had the biggest impact on the team. Five sophomores got playing time over the weekend and Hughes will be relying on them heavily throughout the season. Gardner and Pritchard stood out as the impact players on the attack for Maryland. Alford, a transfer from Georgia Tech, had a big role in the normal rotation, leading the team in assists.
Twilley returned to the a crucial role on the attack, playing in all 11 sets after appearing in just nine last season. Meanwhile, Rivas solidified herself as one of the better defensive players on the team, leading the Terps in digs over the weekend.
Maryland will travel to Akron, Ohio, next weekend to play Akron, Stony Brook and Canisius. Like in North Carolina, the Terps will be the heavy favorites in terms of RPI. Stony Brook is the next closest, ranked 158th. Akron and Canisius are both ranked worse than 200th.