By Sean Montiel
Maryland entered play on Thanksgiving Eve firmly on the NCAA Tournament bubble. With games against Ohio State and Northwestern remaining on the schedule, many believe that the Terps could use one more win to secure a tourney bid. They didn’t get the win they needed though. At home, they fell to the Buckeyes in four sets 18-25, 20-25, 25-21, and 25-22.
Thanks to consecutive aces by Samantha Snyder, Maryland jumped out to a 3-0 lead. An Erika Pritchard attack error put the Buckeyes on the board. That seemingly gave them the spark they needed, as within mere moments Ohio State had a 6-4 lead.
Often when the Terps cut the deficit, they suffered a momentum-killing error, whether on the attack or the serve. In the first, it was Pritchard with three costly ones that sent the opposition on multiple runs to win the set handily.
The second set saw Ohio State take control from the get-go. It was the duo of Luisa Schirmer and Lauren Witte to take advantage of Maryland’s shoddy defense. They combined for seven kills in that set alone on their way to a 20-kill night.
The start of the third set signaled the Terps being swept on their home floor. The Buckeyes started with some big leads, including 8-2 and 15-9 leads. When they found themselves in a tight spot, contributions came from a multitude of players. Gia Milana, Pritchard, Samantha Drechsel, and Snyder all had points in the 6-0 run that tied the game.
A Madison Smeathers kill broke the run, but Maryland came right back thanks to a couple Ohio State errors. Just a little while later, Jada Gardner put the score to set point at 24-20. Schirmer posted another kill to keep it alive, but it was freshman Erika Pritchard who gave Maryland their first set of the night.
In the fourth and final set, Maryland fought to stick with Ohio State. The Buckeyes’ Ashley Wenz came alive when it mattered most. She finished the night with 12 kills and came up when in the clutch multiple times to extend important leads. Maryland’s co-captain Angel Gaskin had a kill to cut the score to 22-21. As it’s been all season, the Terps had an error to kill their chances. This time it was Drechsel, and Lauren Witte sealed the deal for the Buckeyes.
The Terps didn’t play poorly at all; they just weren’t the better team on the court. A .254 hitting percentage served them well and gave them a good chance to win, but the defense couldn’t hold up. Ohio State hit a tremendous .330, which shows how dominant they were offensively.
The regular season finale for Maryland is Friday against Northwestern. They’ll have the home-court advantage, and they’ve already beaten the Wildcats earlier in the season. With an NCAA Tournament berth up in the air, it’ll be interesting to see how Steve Aird’s team responds to this loss.