As Maryland volleyball setter Nicole Alford jumped up for the opening serve Friday night against South Carolina, the foot injury that sidelined her for the first nine matches of the season did not hinder her in any way.
The serve was returned on one touch by the Gamecocks, and outside hitter Erika Pritchard sent it right back to give the Terps the first point of the match.
The opening point set the standard early, with Maryland racing out to an 8-3 lead en route to an opening frame win. But the next two sets went the Gamecocks’ way, forcing the Terps to force a fifth set if they were to come out on top.
Maryland’s inconsistency proved fatal, though, as the Terps took the fourth frame but succumbed in the fifth set as South Carolina won, 3-2, on Friday.
Coach Adam Hughes’ squad came out hot in set one, jumping out to a 6-1 lead. The team was helped by two kills from middle blocker Katie Myers, who was crowned MVP of the Maryland Invite last weekend.
And Pritchard sealed the 25-22 first-set victory for the Terps with a service ace.
With the match knotted at 14 in set two, Alford set up middle blocker Jada Gardner for the kill on the outside to give the Terps the lead. However, a late run from the Gamecocks led to them taking the frame, 25-22.
The third set was even more highly contested. Twenty-five points was not enough to win this one, and South Carolina came out on top 27-25. The Terps have now had a set go past 25 points in four straight matches.
The next one was dominated by Maryland from the start. After a strong service ace from Myers, the Terps boasted a 7-2 lead. South Carolina tightened it later on, but Maryland held on, 25-21, to force a fifth set. The team has now gone five sets in seven of its first 10 matches — the most of any Big Ten team.
In the end, the Terps came up short, moving their record in five-setters to 3-4. Failure to execute down the stretch led to a 15-12 defeat in the fifth.
Maryland will face Kennesaw State followed by Appalachian State on Saturday in their final two nonconference matches of the season.