Terps lose in four sets to Penn State in front of record sellout crowd

By: Nolan DeMott

The Maryland Terrapins went up against no. 10 Penn State in front of a thunderous packed house in the XFINITY Pavilion Center on Friday night. The Terps were coming off a game last Sunday in which they were thoroughly beat down in straight sets by Minnesota. But Friday night home games always carry a little extra emotion, making Maryland poised to come out of the locker room with intensity. And early on, the Terrapins certainly did not disappoint.

After falling behind 3-0 early, the Terps played a solid opening set, especially on the defensive end. The Terps not only held Penn State to an attacking percentage of .179, but they did so while also accumulating four blocks along the way.

In addition, Kelsey Wicinski and Taylor Smith racked up digs in the set for the Terrapins. Wicinksi recorded five of her 19 digs in the set, to which Coach Aird elaborated, saying that she is “one of the better liberos in the league.” Smith had eight digs in the set and set a career high with 17 in the match. The strong defensive play the Terps needed to grab the all-important first set 25-21.

But in the second, Maryland struggled to find their attacking game. After finishing the first set with 12 kills and only three errors, the Terps committed six errors in the second. The Terps did begin to turn it around near the end of the set, but it wasn’t enough. On set point, Samantha Higginbothem served it long to gift the set to Penn State 25-22.

The third set was a rough one for the Terps; Penn State’s offense came alive, as they continued to go to the roll shot on a regular basis to pick up kills. Maryland’s dominant blocking in the first set no longer seemed effective. After the match, Kelsey Wicinski talked about defending against the roll shot.

“We’re always prepared for it,” said Wicinski.  “Everyone always [uses] it, so we always practice [defending against] it.”

Because of Penn State’s effective attacking play, the Terps were thoroughly outplayed in the third, losing 25-18.

The fourth set, the Terps came out strong early on. Gia Milana had four quick kills at the beginning of the set. Toward the middle of the set, though, the Terps fell flat. At 13-13, they lost the next six points, falling out of contention for the match. They went on to lose the set 25-18.

Despite the loss, though, there were some positive aspects to take out of the game. Firstly, the Terps held All-American Simone Lee to a .100 attacking percentage, which Aird described as “remarkable.” Secondly, tonight’s game was the largest crowd in the building’s history with over 1,800 in attendance. According to Coach Aird, when he arrived at the school a few years ago, games normally had around 300 people. So it is promising to see the upward trajectory of the program. Maryland’s next game is this Sunday against Rutgers.