Last year in College Park, South Carolina defeated Maryland volleyball in a five-set match in the Maryland Invite. The teams met in Columbia this weekend, and the Gamecocks downed the Terps in the tiebreak set once again.
A loss wasn’t an ideal start to the Gamecock Invitational, but Maryland (8-4) recovered and won its next two matches against Kennesaw State and Appalachian State to finish the weekend with a 2-1 mark — their second straight tournament with a winning record.
With the win over Appalachian State, Maryland notched its 1,000th victory in program history.
“It’s a great milestone to hit and a great moment,” junior setter Nicole Alford said. “I wish that we could’ve put together a cleaner match for it to happen, but i think it’s a great step in the right direction for this program.”
The Terps were dominant on Saturday, winning in straight sets against Kennesaw State for the first time since Maryland’s first match of the season against Austin Peay. Maryland also won consecutive matches in straight sets for the first time since November 2018, when the Terps defeated No. 15 Michigan on the road and Ohio State at home.
The weekend was led by junior outside hitter Erika Pritchard and redshirt sophomore middle blocker Katie Myers. Pritchard led the Terps with 32 kills and 10 service aces. Myers was very efficient on attack, hitting .591 with 29 kills, and led the team with 19 total blocks.
South Carolina (25-21, 23-25, 25-27, 25-21, 12-15)
Maryland jumped out to a 1-0 match lead against South Carolina, taking a 9-4 advantage early on and a 4-1 run to win the set. The Gamecocks won a close second set, thanks to a 5-0 run after being down 22-20 late.
The third set changed the complexity of the match as the Gamecocks fought off a set point, going on a 3-0 run to take the set and a a 2-1 match lead.
The Terps had a tough game from the attack end, unlike South Carolina, who hit .279 in the match, including hitting .455 in set three. That was a big reason why they won the third set, changing the tide in the match.
Maryland fought back hard to force a fifth set, and a 10-8 lead in the fifth gave them hope. But the Gamecocks, defending their home court, secured a win against the Terps for a second straight season.
“They had a good crowd and they were loud,” Hughes said. “We didn’t execute when we needed to and that’s what this group has to continue to learn.”
Kennesaw State (25-18, 25-13, 25-16)
Maryland’s Saturday morning’s sweep of the Owls was arguably its biggest win of the season as the team hit .435.
Maryland started out hot and never let go, making easy work of what looked like a good opponent coming in on paper. If there was ever a statement win that the Terps needed early in the season, it definitely was this. And Maryland dominated from the start, with an error-free first set, hitting .591.
“That’s what I was really proud about,” Hughes said. “They were disappointed coming up short on Friday night, but they rallied and I thought we executed extremely well.”
While the Terps had a deadly attack, they also were almost perfect, committing eight total errors to Kennesaw State’s 35 total errors and 27 attack errors as they hit .102 as a team.
The closest that the Owls got was when they closed the gap to 17-16 in set one, but Maryland quieted their rally, going on an 8-2 run to take the set, 25-18. The Terps were also aggressive on defense, recording 14 blocks in their 3-0 match win over Kennesaw State. The 14 blocks were the most in a three-set match since recording 18.5 blocks in a 3-0 win over Sacred Heart on Aug. 27, 2017.
Redshirt sophomore middle blocker Katie Myers led the Terps will a team-high 10 blocks.
Appalachian State (25-22, 25-19, 25-18)
Maryland kept the offense rolling in their tournament finale against the Mountaineers, hitting .370 as a team with 41 kills, 13 more than the Mountaineers. Despite a close first set — a three-point win — the Terps hit .455 as Myers and Pritchard each had four kills in the set.
Pritchard took over for the Terps in the match as they continued to attack with efficiency, hitting .321 in set two to Appalachian State’s .034 hitting percentage.
Maryland jumped out to a 14-6 lead, too much for the Mountaineers to overcome, despite getting as close as 16-14 later on in the set.
Set three was much like the latter two, as the Terps coasted to another straight-set match win, leading by as many as 23-13 late in the set, hitting .355 as a team. Freshman outside hitter Rebekah Rath led the team with 10 kills in the match, hitting .412.
Three things to know
1. Katie Myers had quite a weekend. Middle blocker Katie Myers has really taken akin to her captain role on the team this season. Myers demonstrated that in the Terps’ fourth tournament, leading the team with 16 kills against South Carolina and in blocks for the first two matches of the weekend.
“I think I’m becoming more comfortable with the scouting report that the coaches give us and becoming more comfortable with the pins,” Myers said. “Increasing communication worked really well for us.”
The redshirt sophomore also managed to contribute on the attack, hitting .594 in her first two matches.
2. Nicole Alford is back. The story of the weekend was the return of junior setter Nicole Alford, who had missed the first nine matches of the season due to injury. Immediately, her presence was felt as she tied the most assists in a game this season with 28 against South Carolina. Alford led all Terps in assists over the weekend with 57.
“I wasn’t even thinking about how I was gonna play,” Alford said. “I was just really grateful to be back out there. As we were lining up for the first game, I was tearing up a little bit because I was so happy to be back.”
3. South Carolina continues to give the Terps problems. Two seasons, two losses for Maryland against the Gamecocks. The Terps had chances in 2018 and 2019, but South Carolina was the team that capitalized in big moments in both matches.