Maryland volleyball beats Arkansas, 3-1, to open Maryland Invite

Emma Schriner, Rainelle Jones and Erika Pritchard high-five during Maryland volleyball's 3-2 win over Howard on Sept. 2, 2019. (Gabby Baniqued/The Diamondback)

In a set where Maryland volleyball once trailed 7-1, no one in the Xfinity Center Pavilion expected to see middle blocker Rainelle Jones high fiving coach Adam Hughes. But after Jones blocked a kill attempt from Arkansas to give the Terps a 20-18 lead, she did just that.

It was the fourth point in an eventual 8-0 Maryland run that pushed the Terps to match point.

And while the run ended with a Razorbacks kill to make it 24-19, the next point left no doubt as an Arkansas service error cemented the 3-1 win for Hughes’ squad.

“Over-communicating in those tough spots was something we were trying to key on,” Hughes said. “I thought they did a pretty good job of that.”

Outside hitter Rebekah Rath was serving during the 8-0 run, and on a night where outside hitter Erika Pritchard wasn’t at her best, she proved to be the highlight of Maryland’s Friday night victory. Rath finished the match with a career-high 15 kills and a strong .387 hitting percentage.

“To be able to do this under so much pressure has been pretty awesome for her,” Hughes said. “We’re starting to see that she’s getting there.”

The first set was a back-and-forth affair, featuring 10 ties and four lead changes. Middle blocker Katie Myers shined in set one, sending three kills over the net. In the end, Maryland strung together a few points in a row, and it took the set 25-22.

“Katie’s learned how to be really really efficient in tough spots,” Hughes said.

The Terps dropped set two due in part to a familiar problem for the team: service errors. Maryland’s blunders propelled Arkansas to a 25-23 set win despite a late charge from the Terps.

Pritchard was relatively quiet early, too. She recorded only three kills in the first two sets after totaling 20 her last time on the court against UTSA.

“We’re trying to make sure Erika is tooling her game to become more of a complete player,” Hughes said. “But I thought she did a really good job coming back in the fourth set and making some big-time swings.”

Maryland had a difficult time dealing with Arkansas middle blocker Devyn Wheeler and outside hitter Hailey Dirrigl. The duo combined for 29 kills, and Wheeler finished with a hitting percentage of .379.

But Maryland continued to thrive on its own impressive hitting displays, namely from Rath and Myers.

With both teams knotted at 24 in the third set, a pair of kills from Rath and Myers secured it for the Terps. And while the Razorbacks got off to a hot start in the fourth set, jumping out to a 7-1 lead, Maryland recovered.

The Terps rallied back to tie the game at 11, featuring Pritchard’s three kills and Rath’s two service aces during the run. Maryland edged Arkansas, 25-19, to secure the first match of the weekend tournament.

“I’m proud of the team for their effort,” Hughes said.

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