When Maryland volleyball’s Rainelle Jones had a key kill late in the first set against South Carolina, the Terps’ traditional post-point huddle was punctuated with celebratory shoving of Jones.
That emotion was present throughout the Terps matchup with the Gamecocks and helped them force a fifth set after being two sets down, but couldn’t push them over the top in the back-and-forth match, leading to a split doubleheader at home after sweeping Colgate earlier in the day.
Maryland had trouble handling the hard serves of Gamecocks libero Aubrey Ezell, but adjusted down the stretch to limit her damage.
“She has a very powerful, unique serve,” setter Nicole Alford said. “We worked on that in practice this week…It was just about being confident, stepping in there, knowing our seams and just playing the ball.”
Set one was a back-and-forth affair. The Terps had trouble handling the hard serves of Gamecocks Ezell, who served a 4-0 run that gave her team a 14-9 lead in the first set. Maryland fought to get back even at 23-23, but South Carolina took the next two points.
Outside hitter Erika Pritchard came out on fire in the second match, registering Maryland’s first six kills.
“We thought we had a good matchup tonight with Erika against their setter and she ended up with 20 kills,” coach Adam Hughes said. “But we needed a few kills there late in the fifth but we didn’t get them.”
Set two was equally competitive, with 19 ties and neither team able to take a lead larger than three points. The Gamecocks needed five set points to take the 2-0 lead with a 32-30 win.
Pritchard and setter Nicole Alford and both had double-doubles before the end of the second frame.
Outside hitter Liz Twilley also had a big night with a season-high 17 kills against just four errors for a .325 hitting percentage.
The Terps began to turn it around with a relatively easy third set, which they closed on a 7-2 run to win 25-18.
Maryland kept that momentum and raced out to a 7-2 in the fourth set lead before the Gamecocks roared back to tie the score at 15. From there, the Terps reasserted themselves, taking the set 25-22.
“It was exciting for us to play a team that was the highest caliber that we’ve played and that will get us ready for Big Ten play,” Twilley said. “It’s a disappointing loss, but it’s a learning experience and we’ll get better from it.”
The Terps took a quick 4-1 lead in the decisive fifth set before South Carolina took over with a 10-2 run that Maryland couldn’t recover from. After the Terps won four straight points, South Carolina crushed the comeback effort by matching it and taking the set 15-10.
It was Maryland’s most competitive game of the year, and a much tighter matchup than its morning sweep of Colgate, which the Terps won 25-22, 25-13, 25-17.
“I’m sure the fans got their money’s worth,” Hughes said. “That was a back-and-forth event and looking at the stats, we could’ve come out on top but we didn’t win the points we needed to.”