Maryland volleyball coach Steve Aird first called out words of encouragement when outside hitter Gia Milana committed an error in set one against Temple. Then, when Milana rose up and mishit another ball into the net, Aird stood and called for outside hitter Lexi Alden to replace her.
Milana, a member of the 2016 Big Ten All-Freshman team, struggled at times in the season-opening Maryland Invite. She grabbed a water bottle and stood behind her bench, staring away from the court before rejoining her teammates.
What she missed watching was part of the Terps' first opening set victory, 25-17. When she returned, she played a critical part in Maryland's 3-2 match win (25-17, 22-25, 25-23, 21-25, 15-11), finishing the home tournament undefeated against Northeastern, UMBC and Temple.
"I was focusing too much on what I was doing wrong, my errors, instead of focusing on the team," Milana said. "Basically, it was a lot of just me, taking a deep breath, just regrouping. I feel like every athlete has a little stuff they go through. [I've] just got to learn how to get back into it."
Unlike last year, Maryland has more extensive options in attack. In her rookie campaign, Milana recorded 446 kills, nearly doubling Liz Twilley's total of 249, good for second on the team.
While it had a one-dimensional attack at times last season, Aird's squad proved in the finale of the Maryland Invite just how many attacking threats there are.
Outside hitter Erika Pritchard led the Terps with 16 kills. Opposite/outside hitter Samantha Drechsel notched 15, and Milana finished with 15 kills and three blocks. Four Terps hit above .200 in the five-set victory.
"It just makes me so happy knowing that we actually have a team of such strong individuals and such great talent behind me," Milana said. "Anyone, even on the bench, can come up — like Lexi did today. She came up, she played well, we came back and we ended up winning. That's just what we have on this team now."
The Terps posted a dominant first set performance, in which Maryland hit .312 and middle blocker Katie Myers and opposite hitter Angel Gaskin each hit above .600 while combining for seven kills. But Temple came back to take the second set, 25-22.
Locked in back-and-forth action in the third set, Pritchard hit a kill over two Temple defenders before Gaskin powered another one past them. The junior from Tampa, Florida, put the Terps up, 23-22.
Then, Milana rocketed the final two points through the middle of Temple's defense, winning the set 25-23.
Temple took the fourth set behind its blocking game. The Terps jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the fifth set before Temple took a timeout. Following the break, the Owls went on a 6-0 run to pull ahead, 6-3.
But after Aird called a timeout, Maryland got hot.
"[We've] got three veteran players in the front row and you better figure this out," Aird told his team. "I said, 'Hey, we're up 3-0, it doesn't mean we're going to win, and you're down three, it doesn't mean you're going to lose. You just have to be mentally tough enough to stay in it long enough to win."
The Terps embarked on a 7-1 run to grab a 10-8 lead. Pritchard hammered home the winning kill to take the fifth set, 15-11.
Later in the day against Northeastern, Milana struggled with receiving, as she totaled four receiving errors. Two receiving errors in the first set were part of a Northeastern 7-0 run, in which the Huskies took a 10-4 lead. While the Terps narrowed the score and took a 17-16 lead at one point, 11 attacking errors buried Maryland into a first set hole for the second match in a row.
But similar to how the Terps overcame UMBC on Friday night, strong net play and a cleaner attack helped Maryland mount another comeback to win, 3-1 (21-25, 25-17, 25-18, 25-14).
Milana hit just .074 in the match with seven kills. Myers led the Terps with 10 block assists and added 10 kills while hitting .588. Two other Terps — Gaskin and middle blocker Hailey Murray — finished with attacking clips at .400 and above. Maryland's 15.5 total blocks dominated affairs with six Terps getting in on the action.
The undefeated Maryland Invite includes two wins on Saturday over teams with higher RPIs than Maryland had last year. Aird predicts all three teams faced could make the NCAA tournament, too.
"That's a match in the history of this program we find a way to lose instead of get great in the fifth set and bury it," Aird said of the five-set victory against Temple. "I was proud of the youngsters, but we've just got so much work to do."