Jacob Steinberg wrote this article.
The Maryland Women’s volleyball team entered the 2018-19 season with only two seniors on the roster and new coach Adam Hughes,who was an assistant the previous four seasons on Steve Aird’s staff, at the helm. The Terps began their season traveling to Winston Salem to take on the Wake Forest Demon Deacons in a tough non-conference test, followed up by two matches against UNCG and Air Force respectively. The Terps finished the weekend winning their first two matches and losing the final match, a five set nailbiter against Air Force.
It did not take long for Hughes to pick up his first collegiate victory, as the Terps defeated the Demon Deacons in three sets to open up their 2018 campaign. Led by the sophomore duo of outside hitter Erika Pritchard and middle blocker Jada Gardner, who combined for 23 kills, Maryland looked dominant from the get-go. Freshman libero Allegra Divas showed no signs of nerves, finishing with 17 digs. Sophomore setter Nicole Alford played a key part in the victory as well, finishing with 26 assists and continuing to build off her strong preseason play.
Although there are not many seniors on the team, the inexperience did not show in match number one. The Terps finished with only 13 errors the entire match, which played a crucial role in their straight set victory. Redshirt sophomore middle blocker Katie Meyers showed no signs of rust after returning from last year’s season-ending injury, leading the team in blocks.
Compared to the first two sets, the third set was much more competitive, with the Terps winning 31-29. In the third set, senior outside hitter Liz Twilley, Pritchard, and Gardner finished with a combined 15 kills in the set.
After defeating the Demon Deacons in three sets, the Terps continued their winning ways, defeating UNCG in three sets. Pritchard continued her outstanding play from the first match, ending the second with 17 kills, giving her a combined 28 through two matches. Freshman middle blocker Rainelle Jones showed she is ready for the big stage, finishing with 14 kills.
The new duo of Alford and Rivas showed how valuable their additions will be to the team this season, finishing with 38 assists and 15 digs building off their success in the first match.
After defeating UNCG and Wake Forest, the Terps suffered their first loss of the season in a five set battle with Air Force, completing the UNCG/Wake Forest tournament with a 2-1 record. The Terps won the first and fourth sets, but lost in an extremely competitive final set 15-12. Despite the loss, there were plenty of positives to focus on. Most notably, Gardner, who finished with a combined 26 kills on the day with 18 coming against Air Force. After the outstanding performance, she was named MVP of the tournament.
Gardner was not the only Terp to be honored this weekend, both Alford and Meyers were named to the All-Tournament team. Building off her success in the previous match, Alford finished with 50 assists against Air Force, beating her previous career high of 38 from a few hours before.
The Terps will take three more non-conference opponents in the Akron Tournament beginning next Friday with matches against Akron, Stony Brook, and Canisius.