The Maryland volleyball team was looking forward to playing No. 5 Washington, No. 21 Southern California and Oklahoma, but the players knew it would be difficult to come home from the Pac-12 challenges with victories.
Coach Steve Aird said his main objective for the tournament was to give his younger players more experience. He didn’t expect to find much success against three teams that beat Maryland last season.
So, even though the Terps fell to the Huskies and Trojans in straight sets, Aird was pleased with how they performed in a four-set win Friday against the Sooners.
“It was a good win for the program,” Aird said. “I thought it was a big step for us. [Oklahoma] is a team that’s going to win a lot of matches.”
Maryland used the momentum of a close opening-set win to beat the Sooners, 3-1. There were 19 ties and nine lead changes in the first set, and after Oklahoma leveled the score at 28 with a block, outside hitter Gia Milana and opposite hitter Angel Gaskin had kills to take the opening game.
That early success against the Sooners, who entered Friday 9-2, helped the Terps take control of the match. They dominated in the second set, winning the frame 25-13, and split the next two sets to claim the win.
“When you start a match off by winning the first set, it gives you a lot of confidence for the rest of the game,” middle blocker Hailey Murray said. “That kind of carried over into all of the sets.”
Milana, who made 17 attack errors against Washington and Southern California, paced a balanced attack against Oklahoma. She notched a team-high 20 kills and added 10 digs. Outside hitter Liz Twilley, middle blocker Ashlyn MacGregor and Murray also had double-digit kills.
Aird said the Terps would be “tough to stop” if they continue to find that level of offensive balance.
As Maryland prepares to begin Big Ten play next weekend, Aird hopes his team can build on the stretches of excellence it displayed this past week.
Even in the loss to Washington, the Terps put together a 5-0 run in the second set to take a 14-11 advantage. They couldn’t maintain that level of play and lost the frame, 25-21.
Aird said in order for the program to take another step forward, players must play “at the higher end of [their] ability for longer stretches.” He noted the only way to accomplish that is to compete in challenging road tournaments such as the Pac-12 challenge.
Murray, meanwhile, said earning a win over Oklahoma was an important accomplishment the players can build on.
“Being able to pick them off before heading into Big Ten play is pretty important for us,” Murray said. “It shows that we’re going in the right direction and we’re growing.”