By: Lila Bromberg
The Maryland Terrapins’ volleyball team started the season out strong with a sweep in the Maryland Invite Tournament, proving the future of the program is promising — thanks in large part to its freshman class.
In the first game of the three-game tournament, Maryland defeated UMBC 3-1. The Terps lost the first set by a close margin, 28-26, but then went on to win the next three sets, 25-17, 25-20 and 25-18.
The first of two Saturday games played out in a similar fashion with Maryland topping Northeastern in four sets. The Terps again made up for a loss in the first set (21-25) by securing three straight wins (25-17, 25-18, 25-14).
In the final game of the tournament, Maryland won in a thrilling five-set match against Temple. Maryland was finally able to come out strong and win the first set 25-17, but lost the second 22-25. The next two sets were very close, with the Terrapins grabbing the third 25-23 and the Owls pulling out a 25-21 win in the fourth. The match was forced to a fifth set, where Maryland pulled away with the victory 15-11.
The struggle to win the first sets in the first two games speaks to how young this Maryland team is. There are 12 underclassmen on the team, with only six upperclassmen.
“It’s just volleyball. Momentum flips and suddenly the building gets loud and freshman get shaky and people make bad decisions,” head coach Steve Aird said.
While having a young team has its challenges, Maryland boasts the best recruiting class the volleyball program has seen in recent years. Among the incoming talent includes top 100 recruits Erika Pritchard and Samantha Drechsel, who both had impressive first appearances during the tournament.
Pritchard, an Under Armour Second-Team All-American, recorded 37 kills in the three-game set, including a team-high 16 in the final game.
Drechsel’s breakout performance came in the Temple game, when she notched 15 kills and two blocks.
“I think the major difference was I was more focused tonight,” Drechsel said on Saturday. “And I think I got the jitters out too, like I’ve never played in a college atmosphere and I think that now I have the jitters out.”
Other standouts included junior Angel Gaskin and sophomore Gia Milana. Gaskin had a career-high 14 kills in the first game against UMBC, as well as 12 kills and seven blocks in the second game. Milana had 15 kills in the third game.
Now with a 3-0 record, the Terrapins will look to continue their momentum in their next matchup against the Liberty Eagles at the Liberty Invitational on Sept. 1. Aird is laser focused on getting that next win.
“All of my intention starting right now is on Liberty,” he said. “That’s going take 110 percent of my attention starting tomorrow morning. We’ll train this week with the only thing in our mind right now [on] how are we going to find a way to be good against Liberty.”
Photo courtesy of UMTerps.com