By Sean Montiel
Maryland (12-4) found themselves in Ann Arbor Saturday night in a battle against No. 23 ranked Michigan (12-4). The Terps were coming off a loss against No. 16 Michigan State, while the Wolverines had beaten Ohio State on Friday. Those trends continued, as Michigan needed just four sets to win 25-19, 19-25, 25-15, and 25-21.
The Wolverines came out of the gates firing in the first set, as they immediately jumped out to a 9-3 lead thanks to multiple attack errors by the Terps. Gia Milana then got started on her way to a match-high in kills, as she posted two in a row to break the run. Maryland used this to spark their attack; tightening the score to 14-11, but Michigan quickly took control of the set and closed it out thanks to Maryland’s .000 hitting percentage.
It was more of the same to start the second. Michigan began with a 5-2 lead, but they were met with the resistance that has become the norm for this young Terps team. A ton of back and forth, including seven ties, left the score at 18-18. Hailey Murray’s athleticism on a kill gave them the lead, Samantha Snyder’s back-to-back aces extended it, and Milana came up clutch to finish it off.
Unfortunately for Maryland, their momentum didn’t make it through the halftime break. They immediately found themselves down 9-3 early in the third set due to their inaccuracy, as a few attack errors made it easy for Michigan. For the Wolverines, the duo of Carly Skjodt and Claire Kieffer-Wright combined for 11 kills just in that set. They helped their team hit a fantastic .387, the highest of any set in the match.
Down 2-1 in the match, Maryland had no choice but to fight to stay alive. They did just that, as they matched the opposition point for point. Multiple lead changes and ties pushed the score to 12-12. However, consecutive kills from Skjodt gave her team a lead they would not relinquish. The Terps weren’t done just yet, because Gia Milana had three kills late to cut the deficit. It was all for naught though, as an attack error from Murray ended the match on a sour note.
The final outcome shouldn’t leave anyone questioning why. Since B1G conference play has started, Maryland has been inefficient throughout entire matches. This time around, they hit a paltry .158 that includes 28 errors. Those mistakes can’t be faulted on any one person – four players had at least 5 errors. The lone bright spot offensively was Jada Gardner. She saw extended playing time and made the most of it. Her nine kills were tied for second on the team and she led with a .471 percentage.
This loss culminated a lengthy road stretch for the Terps which saw them go 1-3 to start off the conference year. However, the competition was stiff (Michigan State and MIchigan are both ranked). They’ll come home for the next two matches, and they haven’t played there since September 15. Rutgers (5-10) and Penn State (13-1) will come to College Park on October 6 and 7, respectively. If they don’t find their groove then, the season could get away from them quickly.