Erika Pritchard and Sam Burgio stood together at center court, arms draped around each other in an emotional postgame embrace Saturday evening.
The seniors had just laid it all on the line for the final time in College Park.
After dropping the first two sets of their final match of the season against Northwestern, Pritchard and Burgio spearheaded a massive comeback attempt for Maryland volleyball.
“We stepped it up for each other,” Burgio said. “Win or loss, we did what we needed to do.”
Pritchard and Burgio helped Maryland to wins in the third and fourth sets Saturday, but their squad ultimately fell to the Wildcats, 3-2.
In what could be their final match at Xfinity Center Pavilion, Pritchard led the team with 18 kills and Burgio posted a team-high 22 digs in the loss.
While their late-set heroics didn’t amount to a season-ending victory, the Terps’ resilience shone through once again.
“No disappointment in the fight and the grit,” coach Adam Hughes said. “They could’ve folded fast, they could’ve just put it away and said, ‘It is what it is.’ It kind of summarizes a lot about the season, too.”
Hughes’ squad, which ended the truncated 2020-21 season with a 5-15 record, was forced to adjust to an unorthodox conference-only schedule on the fly.
The Terps dropped their first two matches of the year to Ohio State. And it only got worse from there, as they continued on an eight-game losing skid — their worst start in program history.
“We got off to a tough start just because we played a really tough schedule early, and the group never quit and they just [kept] working,” Hughes said.
Hughes’ squad turned it around toward the middle of the season and picked up tough Big Ten wins, including a sweep of Iowa on March 12 and 13.
For Burgio, it was the adversity that helped unite the team as the season progressed despite the trying times.
“The best thing that [the pandemic] did was bring us all together, because your team’s the only people you can spend time with,” Burgio said.
When Northwestern’s Alex Rousseau poked her final kill past Maryland’s defense to end the thrilling match, the realization of the end of the season — and maybe the end of some careers — sank in.
It wasn’t wins and losses that mattered at the end of the difficult season; it was the connections the team formed and the way they fought until the very end.
“With sports, there’s no other bond like it,” outside hitter Hailey Rubino said. “These girls are like my sisters now, and I can’t imagine leaving them in two months.”