Maryland volleyball’s sweep of Indiana on Sunday came thanks to one of its best offensive performances of the season. And in a season dominated by performances from the Terps’ outside hitters, much of the production in Bloomington came from the middle.
Katie Myers totaled seven kills, and Rainelle Jones contributed nine-kills without committing an attack error for her most productive day since tallying 14 kills against UNC Greensboro in August.
Coach Adam Hughes said an offense with more attacks from middles is the style “we’re trying to be,” and he had been making a concerted effort to get them more involved. Before Sunday, though, that emphasis hadn’t paid off.
“Everyone knows that our outsides get a lot of swings,” Hughes said. “Part of it is, ‘Do we have the matchups we want, and can we take care of the first touch?’”
Taking care of the ball was a significant part of the Terps’ straight-sets victory over the Hoosiers. Maryland made just 11 errors, three of which came off Indiana blocks. Hughes said he emphasizes keeping the ball in bounds and would rather give up blocks than commit unforced errors.
The Terps are still working toward that ideal. While they’re the third-toughest team to block in the Big Ten — getting blocked 1.66 times per set — they are 10th in the conference in hitting percentage and are one of six Big Ten teams with more than 400 errors.
The most important player for Maryland’s ball security was outside hitter Erika Pritchard, who leads the team in both kills (337) and attack errors (135). On Sunday in Bloomington, Pritchard made just three errors while contributing 20 kills.
“She’s usually pretty high-kill,” Hughes said. “She’s usually just a lot more errors … She found that balance between going for it and knowing we were playing well defensively.”
Hughes has said that finding the balance between staying aggressive and limiting errors is one of the areas Pritchard is still improving in.
Pritchard has gone over 20 kills four times this season, but this was the first time where she did so with five or fewer errors. In the Terps three-game losing streak before beating Indiana, Pritchard had 32 errors in 13 sets.
Pritchard has been dialing in her hitting all season as she emerges as a force on the outside. With half the Big Ten schedule remaining, her consistency will be a key factor for the Terps.
“If the set’s there, I try to stay aggressive and see where the block is,” Pritchard said. “It’s just a matter of trusting what I can do and seeing where the defense is.”