By Alexander Littlehales
An attendance record was set this Saturday, as 4,552 fans filed in to watch the Terps take on No. 4 Penn State at the Xfinity Center. Packed with an even distribution of alumni from both Maryland and Penn State, the stage was set for Steve Aird and his Terps to showcase their talent in front of his former team and Big Ten powerhouse.
Despite a roaring presence from Penn State supporters, Maryland started the first set with lockdown defense, battling to a 5-5 start. Just when it seemed Penn State would pull away, the Terrapins fought hard to keep both their team and the fans in the game.
Behind an onslaught of kills by Ashley Crutcher, the Terps were making unanswered runs to pull the game within a single point on multiple occasions. However, Penn State’s Ali Frantti had answers of her own, contributing several of her nine kills to keep the Nittany Lions’ close lead. Eventually, costly mistakes would end up catching up to the Terrapins, as Penn State would pull out the win 25-15.
Throughout it all, Amy Dion remained composed, as her constant communication amongst her teammates and her commitment to every play helped rally the Terps for the second set. Penn State jumped to a 5-0 lead, but after a quick timeout, Coach Aird’s team turned the tables.
A series of digs by Dion and out of bounds hits by Penn State led the Terrapins back within one point at 9-8. Now on a momentum swing, junior outside hitter Emily Fraik had one of her team leading nine kills to emphatically tie the game at 9-9. Maryland sophmores Whitney Craigo and Carlotta Oggioni aided in keeping the set close with 10 and 14 assists respectively.
“I love setting,” said Craigo. “I love being able to run the offense, to talk to each hitter, and choose how the offense runs.”
Penn State’s Micha Hancock took control of the game from the service line. As one of the countries premier servers, Hancock ended the second set with one of her eight aces.
“She [Hancock] has one of the top serves in the country,” said Dion. “It’s obviously a tough serve, but we never back down from it.”
Although they were down in the count, the Terrapins were not ready to go down without a fight. Similar to the first set, the Terps were playing tenacious defense by diving after every ball. Ashlyn MacGregor and Catie Coyle were each pairing the stout defensive stance with kills of their own, putting them within one point at 7-6 and ready to make a late game comeback. Penn State’s offense would prove too potent to contain, as Aiyana Whitney ended up with several of her game leading 11 kills in the final minutes of the set. Just like clockwork, with a game point on the line, Micha Hancock served her second set-ending ace of the game, leading the Nittany Lions to a 25-14 set and overall match win.
Despite the loss, Coach Aird is happy with the team’s current path.
“Where it’s headed is that we’re a year away, or two years away, from not only playing in these matches but winning these matches,” said Aird. “We’re taking games off of Minnesota, we’re taking games off Nebraska, we’re taking games off Purdue,” as he said with a hopeful gleam in his stare.
When asked about the Terrapins attitude Aird said, “You lose a lot of matches with some teams and they mail it in, the kids are checked out and they don’t care. This team is the absolute opposite…they don’t back down, and that’s the type of humans I want to be around”
The Terrapins fall to 9-19, and look to take on University of Iowa this Wednesday on the road.