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Terps battle, but fall to No. 24 Illinois, 3-2

Maryland led in every set against the nationally-ranked Illinois Fighting Illini, but could not close out enough sets for the victory.

Maryland led in every set against the nationally-ranked Illinois Fighting Illini, but could not close out enough sets for the victory.

Finally back at home after not playing a single game in College Park in the month of September, the Maryland volleyball team put up a gutsy effort against No. 24 Illinois, but ultimately the Fighting Illini just had a bit more and used 17 blocks to earn the five-set victory – 25-18, 22-25, 30-28, 23-25, 16-14.

“This was a tough loss but we played hard,” head coach Steve Aird said. “I am proud of how we fought. We had a window to win, and in this conference, you have to capitalize on that. We will keep working and battling.”

Freshman Gia Milana led Maryland with 16 kills while Ashlyn MacGregor hit .462 with 12 kills, two aces and five assisted blocks. Liz Twilley had 15 kills.

Though Maryland took a 14-12 lead in the first half, Illinois pulled away and out-scored the Terps 13-4 to the end. However, Maryland hit an impressive .367 in the second set to even the match after a close set. Illinois used a 5-0 run to take an 8-6 lead, but after a Maryland timeout the Terps went on a 7-1 run to re-take the lead. They never trailed after that. The Illini ended Maryland’s run with a 4-1 run, but the Terps lead was enough to cushion the blow and after another timeout they put together a solid run to get back out ahead by an arm’s distance.

Kills by Twilley and Milana put the Terps at the service line with a chance for set point. Michelle Strizak saved set point with a kill for Illinois, but Milana came back with a kill to even the match.

Maryland used a 5-0 run that extended out to an 8-3 run to take a 19-18 lead in the third set and a bit later a four-point run to earn a chance at the go-ahead set point, but Illinois saved it twice to tie the match at 24-24. A service error by Illinois once again gave Maryland a chance at set point, but Illinois not only saved it but got themselves ahead by one. Maryland wouldn’t give in easily, though. Twilley smacked back-to-back kills to re-take the lead. Illinois saved set point once. Another kill by Twilley put Maryland back again on the service line with a chance to end the game, but three-straight points (two skills by Trizak and a block by Naya Crittendan) was the edge Illinois needed at the end to take the set.

The Terps opened the fourth set on a 5-0 run with Sam Higginbothem on the line and in that run she hit three-straight aces. Maryland led 10-6 before Illinois scored five-straight points to take the lead; three of those points came off blocks. Still, Maryland kept hitting well and the two teams exchanged leads multiple times.

Back-to-back attack errors by Illinois put Maryland at the line for set point to even the match at 2-2. Two attack errors by the Terps saved set point for Illinois twice but the Terps didn’t give away a third point to tie the set, instead, Angel Gaskin nailed a kill off an assist by Taylor Smith to even the set total.

Against their nationally-ranked opponent the Terps led the deciding fifth set 13-11 after a 6-2 run, but their offense couldn’t produce another point. They let 14-13 with match point on the line after an attack error by Illinois, but the Illini scored three-straight points, all off errors, to end the match.

But while it was a loss, playing a nationally-ranked program that close shows the growth the Terps have made through this season. Prior to that game they were swept by all five nationally-ranked teams they have played this season. They will play the coming weekend on the road with a Friday match at Michigan and Saturday clash at Michigan State, but will return home for three-straight home conference matches beginning on Friday, Oct. 14 against Iowa at 6 pm.

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Corey Johns

Editor in Chief
You could say Corey was born to become a sports journalist. His father won a national championship coaching college soccer. His mother is a baseball fanatic who hasn't missed seeing an Orioles game since 1983 (literally, sometimes it's annoying). His great uncle was a big-time boxing promoter and his maternal grandfather was once a department head at the Baltimore Sun. Basically, sports and journalism run through his blood. He played just about every little league sports there was when he was a kid and was a multi-sport athlete in high school; even playing in the first-ever high school sanction Rugby game in the country. Eventually he retired from sports as an undefeated Maryland state Rugby champion as a high school senior. Perhaps lack of athletic talent has more to do with the retirement, but he will tell you that it more had to do with a great desire to jump right into media. Upon his graduation from University of Maryland, Baltimore County as a triple communications major, Corey started the So Much Sports network and has continued to grow his websites and continues to work to make them premier sports media outlets.

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