With offseason turnover and a young roster, Maryland volleyball has been searching for consistency, especially on offense.
In the first match of the Terps’ final nonconference tournament of the season, they put together an efficient three-set win. The next day, they produced their worst offensive performance of the season in a five-set loss to Princeton.
Against Temple, Maryland hit a season-high .396 and made just eight errors. But the Terps faltered in the tournament finale, hitting a season-low .115 and racking up 34 errors. The inconsistency displayed how Maryland’s early-season search for stability will continue with Big Ten play on the horizon.
“Temple had some good offensive options who weren’t quite as good in the serve and pass,” coach Adam Hughes said. “We knew Temple would present some challenges but we thought Princeton would be a lot different.”
The struggles to find a rhythm on attack aren’t surprising. Hughes took over in January after coach Steve Aird departed for Indiana. Aird’s departure prompted an exodus of top attacking talent, including outside hitters Gia Milana and Samantha Drechsel. Hughes also decided to change offensive systems, prompting further adjustments for a squad that features five first-time Terps.
So, the dominance displayed against Temple was promising for Maryland.
“We were really connecting well as a team, we had lots of different options and places to hit,” outside hitter Liz Twilley said. “As a team we were really focused, had high energy and executed our game plan well.”
Hughes echoed Twilley, describing the Friday night victory as the first time he has seen his squad with “all cylinders firing.”
But the mistakes that had plagued Maryland all season finally caught up to them against Princeton. Last weekend, the Terps played South Carolina — their toughest test yet, to a tight five-set loss. The next day, Maryland swept Liberty, but its attack was rife with miscues.
After cruising past Temple, the Terps misfired early and often against Princeton. Hughes said the teams’ differing styles proved problematic for Maryland to deal with.
Maryland’s poor hitting on Saturday was exacerbated by a stellar defensive effort by the Tigers. Princeton set season-highs with 112 digs and 10 blocks.
“They played hard, they were really scrappy and played great defense,” Twilley said. “They made it harder today.”
While Maryland knew of Princeton’s defensive prowess entering the matchup, Twilley said the Terps hurt themselves by not managing the ball well on offense.
Maryland has played well overall, hitting .250 or better in seven of its 12 matches. But the weekend in Philadelphia showed that the Terps have had issues with staying consistent and keeping momentum from match-to-match.
While the Terps went 2-1 in the tournament, picking up two of their most convincing wins of the season, Hughes knows his team will have to elevate its offensive play in order to compete with the elite teams in the Big Ten.
“We’ve got to find ways to make sure the offense stays distributed pretty evenly,” Hughes said. “You don’t want to be one dimensional, especially going into the Big Ten, you need lots of different weapons. But we’re a young group, we’re still learning how to play together.”