Maryland volleyball’s coaching staff didn’t know what to expect from its six true freshmen on the Terps’ first road trip of the season in the Liberty Invitational.
Maryland opened its campaign with an undefeated weekend at home during the Maryland Invite, but the first away trip added further challenges to matches.
Against Liberty on Friday, the underclassmen-heavy Terps stayed loose en route to a win in straight sets (25-21, 25-15, 25-16), pushing them to 4-0 to start the season.
Outside hitters Erika Pritchard and Gia Milana led the Terps with 13 and 12 kills, respectively. Middle blockers Hailey Murray and Katie Myers each hit at a .500 clip while adding 18 kills between them. As a whole, the Terps hit .362 while notching five aces.
Freshmen hitters Samantha Drechsel and Pritchard retook the floor in the first set and shared a laugh with Myers, displaying none of the possible nerves coach Steve Aird and his staff were wary of. The three of them are just four matches into their college careers, but they helped lead the team to a .400 hitting percentage in the first set, with Pritchard’s six kills pacing the team.
Maryland separated early in the first set and led by as many as eight after an 8-0 run. But the Terps had trouble putting away the Flames. After Liberty narrowed the lead with a 5-2 run, Aird called for a timeout.
Murray, coming off a tournament-MVP performance last weekend, sent her second kill through the heart of Liberty’s defense to take the first set, 25-21.
The second set began much tighter. After a spike mishit off Milana’s hands in the back row to tie the set at one, Aird was left scratching his head with a confused look on his face.
The Flames tied the set at nine before an 8-1 Terps run separated them for good. Maryland hit .395 with four aces in the frame to go on to a 25-15 set win.
After a consistently strong net presence during the Terps’ opening weekend, Murray and Drechsel combined for just the team’s third block to give Maryland a 4-2 lead in the third set. And after hitting near .400 in the first two sets, the offense lagged after the break to under .200 at times.
A 5-1 run from the Terps, including a kill and ace from Pritchard, forced Liberty to call for timeout when trailing, 18-12. With Liberty hitting at .103 during the third set, Maryland cruised to its first straight sets victory of the season with the 25-16 third-set victory.