In Maryland volleyball's first two weekends of action, clean hitting was one of the team's strengths.
But while the Terps picked up two wins in the Maryland Invite tournament this weekend, they didn't attack as well as they had in previous matches. The team notched a season-low 36 kills against Colgate on Saturday morning, then set a new low with just 34 in the finale against Liberty on Sunday.
So despite the positive results overall, coach Adam Hughes expects the up-and-down performance to serve as a learning experience for his young squad.
"Looking at some of the offensive numbers, we are a little bit disappointed about where we are," Hughes said. "Sometimes that's because we force some things that maybe weren't smart, but we'll go back, watch the film and see where those mistakes were."
Maryland was helped by Liberty's frequent miscues on Sunday en route to a straight-sets win. In the second set against the Flames, the Terps hit .040 and made six errors, but survived because Liberty swung to a -.028 attack percentage and added 12 errors.
Maryland rebounded in the final frame, hitting .300 with 17 kills to secure the sweep. For outside hitter Erika Pritchard, who led the Terps with 11 kills in the match, there wasn't an overarching shift in mentality. And middle blocker Rainelle Jones admitted postgame the team had played "frantically" and needed to calm down.
"We just had to focus on the little things," Pritchard said. "When we got those down, success came and points came."
While Maryland struggled to find consistency in its attack against Liberty, its control of the net game helped spur the team toward a tournament-ending win. Maryland outblocked the Flames 10-4.
Pritchard, who tied for the team lead with five blocks, said the Terps had emphasized blocking in their game plan for the Flames. That advantage made up for their shortcomings on offense.
As the squad relies on a slew of inexperienced players in the wake of offseason turnover, it's no surprise the Terps will have matches where they underperform. Hughes is focused on turning attacking shortfalls into learning experiences.
"We didn't play fantastic. It was a little bit of a grind of a match," Hughes said. "We are a young team who are still learning how to play together. Hopefully we can improve this week in practice because we've got a big week coming up."