While No. 5 Nebraska made 14 service errors in its four-set victory over Ohio State on Friday, Maryland volleyball coach Steve Aird expected the Cornhuskers to cruise against the Terps Saturday if they returned to form.
After all, Nebraska's service game helped it crush Maryland in straight sets on Nov. 8.
The Cornhuskers didn't find the same rhythm they achieved in that outing until late, but they still rolled to a straight-sets win (23-25, 18-25, 13-25).
"They force you into some errors, they serve the ball really well and as the match develops, really good teams start to take away things and change their approach," Aird said. "They were not very good in game one, they'll probably tell you. Game two they were a little bit better and game three they were really, really good."
Outside hitter Erika Pritchard led Maryland with 10 kills, but the Terps hit .115 while Nebraska posted a .310 hitting clip.
Maryland (17-13, 6-12 Big Ten) and Nebraska (24-4, 17-1) are at two different places as programs. The Cornhuskers are battling for a second straight Big Ten title, with aims at a national championship run. Aird told the Big Ten Network after Friday's win over Iowa that he's confident the Terps will make the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2005.
Nebraska had the luxury of redshirting PrepVolleyball top-10 recruit middle blocker Lauren Stivrins last season because of its depth. Maryland's top-underclassmen, meanwhile, don't have that same adjustment period. Five of six starters for the Terps this year are underclassmen.
"They've been relevant for 40 years," Aird said. "It's my job as the coach to prepare the team. I thought, I get probably a C. I think it's not the kids' fault, I think the kids battled."
Each of Maryland volleyball's home losses have been against top-10 teams, a trend that continued despite a tight first set. The Cornhuskers notched two aces within the first three points of the match, with one effort ricocheting off opposite/outside hitter Samantha Drechsel's arms and the next landing in front of a diving libero Sam Burgio. And after a late Terps comeback, they held on for an opening frame victory.
Without libero Kelsey Wicinski for the 12th-straight match, Maryland relied on an all-underclassmen receiving line. The group held the Cornhuskers to five aces.
"We tried to fight off the aces a little bit more," Pritchard said. "But they're a really good serving team, so it was kind of hard to get a perfect pass on that."
After the tight first set, Nebraska steadied its play while Maryland struggled offensively. The Terps hit .036 to the Cornhuskers' .174 in the second set. Nebraska controlled the play more, and with it, its large traveling contingency led chants and adjusted the Xfinity Center Pavilion's atmosphere to become road-friendly.
Nebraska then cruised to a 25-13 third set win and a straight-sets sweep.
"[Aird's] saying how we can use them as an example of where we want to be," middle blocker Jada Gardner said. "We all know we could've done better and all that stuff, and we just need to be better for Ohio State [on Nov. 22]."