While Maryland volleyball middle blocker Katie Myers entered Wednesday’s match against Northwestern leading the Big Ten in blocks per set, none of her teammates ranked inside the top 15.
And for the third time this season, Myers went on to rack up double-digit blocks, this time in a five-set win over the Wildcats. But she wasn’t alone in her success.
Freshman Rebekah Rath added a career-high six stuffs at the net, and four other Terps found the statsheet in the category as Adam Hughes’ team didn’t tally a single blocking error.
Led by Myers, Maryland stepped up its blocking game exponentially on Wednesday, recording 23 individual blocks on a night where digs weren’t as big of a factor on defense to propel it to a hard-fought win.
“I didn’t think we had a great night on backcourt defense,” Hughes said, “but I liked how we got a little more physical with our blocks in the fourth and fifth set.”
The Terps’ usual contributors on the back row were quiet against Northwestern, forcing the team to succeed in other avenues of defense. The team totaled 47 digs, down from 86 in the last five-set match against Indiana on Oct. 16.
In turn, by being consistent with their blocks, Maryland took pressure off their back row; even if a block doesn’t result in a point, it can throw off the opponent’s offensive attack.
“Being able to block helps a lot,” outside hitter Erika Pritchard said. “Good blocks end up helping the defense and back row players playing easy balls.”
Though Pritchard had just one block in Wednesday’s block party, she is currently second on the team with 170 digs. The junior didn’t make a huge dent on the match in terms of digs, totaling six — but she led the offensive attack with 18 kills.
Players up and down the Terps roster assisted in the blocking effort, with Rath leading the charge alongside Myers. Entering the match, Rath averaged just 0.4 blocks per set. But she averaged 1.2 per set against the Wildcats, with her blocks often coming in crucial moments of the match.
“Bekah gave us some life in the fourth set by making some blocking moves,” Hughes said. “That gave the group a little bit of energy.”
Part of what allowed both middle blockers and outside hitters to excel in the facet was their communication. As the match went on, the Terps adjusted their defense to counter a Northwestern attack propelled Northwestern to take set one, 25-22, for their first set win since Oct. 5.
“As a middle, we have to talk to our pin hitters and ask them what they see in order to make adjustments,” Myers said.
Myers finished Wednesday’s match with 10 total blocks, and she was the only Terp on the floor to record a solo block. The 6 foot-2 middle blocker brought her block total to 124 on the season, 35 more than the next highest total in the Big Ten.
But the blocking game wasn’t solely about Myers on Wednesday. She was happy to see the progress her teammates made after working hard in practice.
“It’s nice to see some improvement,” Myers said. “It’s something we’ve been focusing on the whole season, and I think it continues to get better.”