When the Maryland volleyball team saw it missed out on the NCAA tournament on Sunday, the group waited for someone to make the first move.

It was the inverse of the raucous environment it had been prior to the selection show, or the ear-splitting Xfinity Pavilion, where the Terps blare rap music between points.

The Terps were the first team left out of the tournament. Coach Steve Aird broke the silence, standing in front of his squad at the Old Maryland Grill underneath The Hotel, tasked with corralling his players’ emotions — including those of his crying seven-year-old daughter MJ.

So, he compared Maryland’s progression from when he arrived four seasons earlier to where he has brought it today. Aird was proud the Terps went from being ranked 150th in RPI following his first season in charge, to having their name on the screen during ESPNU’s bracket reveal.

Outside hitter Liz Twilley took it a step further when she exited the restaurant, her eyes still red from tears after being so close to Maryland’s first NCAA tournament in 12 years.

“We won’t feel like this next year,” Twilley said to opposite hitter Angel Gaskin.

[Read more: Maryland volleyball is the first team left out of the NCAA tournament]

Maryland improved from last season’s 12-20 record, but the 2017 Terps still periodically showed the inconsistency expected of a team with 12 underclassmen as a vital part of its production.

Losing just two players next year, Aird’s squad can use the heartbreaking conclusion to a career-best campaign for the fourth-year coach to further build a Big Ten contender.

“When you go through something that’s gut-wrenching, you have a choice,” Aird said. “You say, ‘Hey, we’re never going to do it,’ or the fact that three and a half years into being here that we’re on the board is pretty exciting. I’m hoping the response is we’re going to be a team that’s going to train the right way in the spring and have a great summer and be ready to go in the fall.”

There were moments the talent of Aird’s back-to-back ranked recruiting classes shined.

In Maryland’s sweep of then-No. 18 Southern California on Sept. 14, the Terps showed a glimpse of their potential dominance against annual powerhouses. They captured their second top-25 win against Purdue, the first time under Aird that Maryland knocked off two ranked opponents in a season. In their final homestand, the Terps handled Iowa, a team that swept them on the Xfinity Center main floor a year ago.

The addition of top-30 recruits Samantha Drechsel and Erika Pritchard helped spread out the attack. Last year, outside hitter Gia Milana was the go-to option, so Maryland’s opponents keyed in on stopping her. Pritchard and Drechsel finished second and third in kills, respectively, behind Milana.

Middle blocker Hailey Murray and defensive specialist Samantha Higginbothem will graduate, but injured middle blocker Katie Myers should fill in for Murray, an All-Big Ten Honorable Mention. Maryland adds another middle blocker in Rainelle Jones, the No. 32-ranked recruit in the country.

“We’ll have a lot more confidence, and kind of like a different vibe,” Milana said Nov. 14 about next season’s prospects. “We know what we’ll be up against, so I feel like we’ll have a good idea of what it takes to really, really compete and even beat some of these Big Ten teams.”

[Read more: Maryland volleyball’s Erika Pritchard named Big Ten Freshman of the Week]

Maryland displayed its inexperience in its penultimate match of the season. The Terps lost at home in four sets to an underperforming Ohio State team.

Maryland swept Northwestern to end the campaign. But Maryland’s loss to Ohio State could have influenced the selection committee’s decision to exclude Maryland from postseason play.

A groan broke out across the room when Maryland’s name appeared on the screen as the first team left out of the tournament. Still, the result didn’t sidetrack Aird’s plan. There was no due date in his mind for the Terps’ first tournament berth in more than a decade. Aird is just focused on improving every year.

“When Myers blew her knee and when we lost [libero Kelsey] Wicinski to the upper body injury, we’re down two starters,” Aird said. “For me, it’s amazing that we were in this situation where we had the possibility to potentially advance. At the end of the day, I thought we had an unbelievable year. 18-14 with the group that we had, in the conference we had and the wins that we had was phenomenal. And I’m more proud of them than I am upset.”