By Sean Montiel
Maryland is finally on the other side of the toughest stretch of its season. The Terps encountered four straight top 10 teams, and they were all on the road to boot. No. 5 Minnesota, No. 8 Wisconsin and No. 6 Nebraska all came and went, and the Terps managed to win just one set throughout the three matches.
On Saturday, they would face top-ranked Penn State for the second time this season. Back in early October in College Park, the Terps were swept in straight sets by the Nittany Lions. Now in State College, Pennsylvania, the same occurred as Maryland fell 25-14, 25-21 and 25-16.
The first set started with Penn State jumping out to a 4-0 lead on three attack errors by Erika Pritchard, Samantha Snyder and Samantha Drechsel. That would be the Terps’ downfall throughout the night, as the team combined for 29 total.
Gia Milana put Maryland on the board with a kill, which started her on her way for a tremendous performance. Her 14 kills led the match, and she did it efficiently too, hitting .333 for the night. Abby Detering’s back-to-back kills kept Penn State’s lead safe, and Simone Lee’s service aces put the set out of reach.
Three consecutive attacking errors by Maryland kickstarted the second set, but the Terps battled to keep things close. Milana came up with important kills time and time again, and Pritchard’s kill made the score 23-20. Lee came in with another point for Penn State, and after an error by Detering, Tori Gorrell finished it off.
The third set was tightly contested for a while, but Maryland’s errors kept it from getting anything consistent going on offense. The Terps were able to keep it within three points at 19-16, but four consecutive errors, two by both Drechsel and Pritchard, effectively ended things. A Simone Lee service ace pushed it to match point, and Haleigh Washington put a bow on the sweep.
A .047 hitting percentage for Maryland is a clear indicator of why it lost. Its defense did a good job to hold Penn State to a .256, but you can’t win with 29 errors and a sub-.100 hitting rate against anyone, much less the best team in the country.
Going forward for the Terps, they’ll come home for the final stretch of the year. An NCAA tournament bid isn’t out of the question for Steve Aird’s team, and if they want to play in the postseason, a strong finish is needed. It will see Iowa and Nebraska next weekend, and Ohio State and Northwestern will come to town during Thanksgiving break. Time will tell if this team has what it takes to close out the season on a high note.