After consecutive straight-set defeats against No. 7 Washington and Ohio State, Maryland volleyball ended its losing skid on the back of clean hitting.
After hitting below .100 in consecutive losses, the Terps matched their 2016 win total with a .233 hitting performance to sweep Indiana (25-17, 25-19, 26-24).
Wednesday against the Buckeyes, outside hitter Gia Milana said Maryland was outplayed in every facet. The roles were reversed Saturday. Maryland outblocked the Hoosiers, and their serving and steady attack helped earn a sweep over Indiana for the second straight year.
“At least in the first two games tonight, I thought we handled the ball pretty well and the setters did a good job of finding people,” coach Steve Aird said. “You’ve got to play at a really high level because everyone’s good.”
Milana led the Terps with 11 kills while middle blocker Hailey Murray added nine amidst a .667 hitting display. Maryland finished the match with nine aces and six blocks.
Saturday’s win marks the first time the Terps have been at .500 in the Big Ten. The last three years they have started conference play with at least eight straight losses.
“In the history of the program, we’ve let ourselves get down at the beginning of Big Ten play and had a really hard time coming back,” Murray said. “So, our goal was to really go into this knowing we belong in the Big Ten and that we weren’t going to go on one of those 0-8 streaks.”
Maryland ended a six-set stretch of defeats with a dominant first set. On the first serve, Milana hit a dipping ball in which Indiana libero Bayli Lebo couldn’t handle. The Terps used aggressive serving to gain a lead in the first frame. While they posted five service errors, two aces and steady low serves gave Indiana trouble.
The Terps scored on over 70 percent of Indiana’s first set serves.
“Indiana’s a really good serving team and we knew we had to match them,” Aird said.
Maryland continued clean hitting in the second set, closing a 25-19 win with a .400 clip. Maryland added four aces in the frame, with outside hitter Erika Pritchard leading the night with four. Milana’s ninth kill deflected off blockers to put away the set as all six attackers hit above .200.
Maryland picked up three of its first six points in the third set on Indiana service errors. But the Terps hit negative midway through the third frame, forcing coach Steve Aird to call a timeout, trailing 17-14. Then, Milana grabbed a 23-22 set lead with back-to-back aces.
Middle Blocker Jada Gardner completed Maryland’s comeback in the third set with a block. After trailing by as many as four in the final frame, the Terps finished on a 12-7 run.
Last year, Maryland secured its 12th win over Indiana in its final match of the season. A month into the Terps’ 2017 campaign, their sweep over Indiana secured a 12-2 start to the season.
“We’ve gotten so much better at battling back and winning games that we should win,” Milana said. “At times, we’ve struggled during sets but we haven’t let that overcome us. … The team is just developing in huge strides.”