By Lila Bromberg
The Maryland Terrapins fell to third-ranked Penn State in a 3-0 sweep at Xfinity Center on Saturday for their second home loss of the season.
Maryland came into the match after sweeping Rutgers 3-0 the night before (25-18, 25-22, 25-17), and surpassing last season’s win total. However, head coach Steve Aird was not impressed with the performance, in which the Terrapins struggled to win each set of the match against a 5-12 team and had 21 errors.
Penn State entered the game No. 3 in the country, with only one loss on its record. Aird previously helped them win two national titles as its assistant coach.
Maryland started off the game unphased by the challenge of playing the No. 3 team in the country. The first half of the match was close, as both teams exchanged points back and forth. Penn State was able to secure a lead slight 10-9 lead and Maryland lost momentum of the set, finding itself down 12-18 halfway through the set. The Terrapins tried to fight back, but couldn’t keep up with the Nittany Lions, eventually losing the set 25-17 on a service error by Gia Milana. They had four other service errors in the set.
After the first few points of the second set, Maryland found themselves once again in a deficit to Penn State. Aird called a timeout at 9-4 in an attempt to let his team regather itself. But Maryland simply couldn’t come back, down 11 points at 4-15 halfway through the set. It stayed down by at least 10 points for the majority of the rest of the set, unable to mount a comeback. The Terrapins lost the set 25-11.
“I thought in game two we broke down and made a lot of uncharacteristic mistakes, but sometimes the other team forces you into that so it is what it is,” Aird said of the team’s performance in the second set.
The Terrapins came into the third set hoping to extend the match to a fourth set. That determination led them to take the lead for the first half of the set, leading at 8-4. They continued to lead within four points for the majority of the first half, but Penn State was able to tie it at 12. Penn State had three straight points from there, but Maryland came back and the set was extremely close for the second half. The set was tied at 23-23, but Penn State took the next two points, winning the set 25-23 and the match 3-0.
“Penn State’s in the conversation to win a national championship and as much as it pains me to lose to them, I’m pretty sure that’s what I expected,” Aird said.
Despite the loss, Aird said the night represented a huge growth in the Maryland volleyball program.
“Obviously it’s been years in the making where we have that kind of atmosphere, but I thought it was awesome,” he said. “I think it’s meaningful. Volleyball matters at Maryland, period. I think it’s cool… When I got here they were averaging 300 people at a home match and now you’ve got 4000 people out here who are having a really good time.”
The Terrapins now face a two game road trip against two Big Ten teams. They will travel to Evanston, Illinois for their next match against Northwestern (2-3 in conference, 12-5 overall) on Oct. 13 and then play Illinois (3-2 in conference, 12-4 overall) the day after.
Freshman Samantha Drechsel says going forward the team needs to focus on consistency and lowering the amount of errors.
“Now we’ve just got to go get a couple wins,” Aird said. “We’ve got to win on the road, that’s the next big thing.”