As disappointing as Maryland volleyball’s UTSA Classic was, with two losses in three matches by way of blown leads in five-set bouts, bright moments were scattered throughout.
After falling to UT-Rio Grande Valley on Friday and to Houston in their first match Saturday — crediting high-expectations down the stretch for the losses — the Terps were bolstered by unproven talent against UT-San Antonio.
While outside hitter Erika Pritchard stole the show with her second-highest kill count of the season against the Roadrunners, the team also leaned on freshman outside hitter Rebekah Rath, who notched the highest hitting percentage of her young college career (.333), and first-time starter Chloe Prejean.
“[Rath] works her butt off in practice every single day,” middle blocker Katie Myers said. “We’re asking her to do a lot as a freshman and she is doing really well.”
Rath, a native of Altamonte Springs, Florida, reclassified from the 2020 recruiting class to the 2019 class in the offseason, making her younger than most college freshmen. But her resume speaks for itself; Rath was a three-time Division 9A Florida Offensive Player of the Year in high school before committing to Maryland.
Coach Adam Hughes sees a lot of potential in Rath, even though she has already made a strong first impression.
“I think she’s going to be a special player,” Hughes said, “and she’s not even 18 years old yet.”
After notching just four kills and totaling four errors in match one Saturday, Rath stepped up against the Roadrunners. She was second on the team in kills, earning 14, a career-high.
Rath’s teammates marvel at her maturity and versatility on the court. She has not only helped the team on attack but also on serves, accumulating four aces already this season. For Pritchard, a First Team All-Big Ten honoree, Rath provides the opponent another weapon to focus on stopping.
“Rebekah certainly takes some of the pressure off of me,” Pritchard said. “She’s doing a really good job being mature.”
As for Prejean, who grew up a Maryland sports fan, her impact on Saturday’s victory was largely unprecedented. She appeared in just three sets during her freshman and sophomore years and only one so far this season.
Setter Samantha Snyder has stepped up in the absence of Nicole Alford, but Hughes gave Snyder some back up with Prejean. And she stepped up, along with Rath, to help the Terps salvage a match from the tournament.
“Chloe did a really good job managing the game in her first career start,” Hughes said.
Prejean finished the match with 17 assists and just one error. Her teammates were impressed with how easily she fit into the offense.
“My connection with Chloe was really really good,” Myers said.