Maryland falls to South Carolina in five sets

Nicole Alford sets a ball for Rainelle Jones. (Photo courtesy of UMD Athletics).

By: Chris Gharagozlo

Welcoming their head coach, Adam Hughes, to his first weekend at home as the head coach, the Maryland volleyball team looked to ride their momentum into their second match of the day against the Gamecocks of South Carolina.

In the first match of Maryland’s double-header, they defeated Colgate, 3-0, but were unable to sweep their two-match day as they fell, 3-2, in a thrilling five-set match against South Carolina on Saturday night at the Xfinity Center Pavilion.

The match was anticipated to be a good one as both Maryland and South Carolina both entered with just one loss on the young season.

The first set started with both teams trading points. Maryland had the edge at the start, but South Carolina continued to answer. As the game progressed, so did the Gamecocks. Sophomore outside hitter Erika Pritchard willed the Terps to stay in it. The Terps battled the entire set from behind, but their effort fell short as South Carolina took the first set.

The second set would mimic the first, as the Terps and Gamecocks battled back and forth., In a thrilling second set, South Carolina and Maryland battled it out, with both sides refusing to back down. The scores were tied at 25-25, 26-25, 28-28 as both teams repeatedly refused to concede the set point. The Maryland crowd was electric, doing whatever it could to propel the Terps to victory, but it was not enough as the Gamecocks stole the second set, 32-30.

Nicole Alford, a transfer from Georgia Tech, continuously set up her teammates for scoring opportunities. Through the first two sets, she led the terps with a whopping 23 assists.

The third set was a vital one for both teams. South Carolina was trying to finish the deal and Maryland was trying to rally back and the Terps did exactly that. They got right back into the match when the Terps took over late in the third set and won the set by a score of 25-18.

Maryland came firing out of the gate in the fourth set. However, the theme of this match was resilience and South Carolina would take down their turn at it. Maryland neutralized South Carolina with strong net play and was able to pull away towards the end of the set. With the score at 24-22, South Carolina’s serve flew directly into the net as the match leveled up at two sets apiece.

Next came set five, the winner-take-all set. With her team needing a spark, Pritchard took over in the fifth set and finished her night with 20 kills and 19 digs (a new career high).

However, key defensive plays by South Carolina proved to be crucial. Despite strong play from Pritchard, Alford and Katie Myers, the Terps dropped the fifth and final set, 15-10 and South Carolina won 3-2.

Maryland showed heart coming back from a early two set deficit, but their comeback bid fell just short.

“I thought their effort was great, I was proud of their resilience and of their fight back,” head coach Adam Hughes said.

Then Maryland looks to bounce back tomorrow, September 9th, against Liberty at 3 p.m. in the team’s final game of 2018’s Maryland Invite.