Terps Volleyball Keeps it Close but Drops 3 to Georgia Tech
Maryland setter #12 Hayley Hanson positions the ball for a hit attempt by #3 Katie Usher as the Terrapins fell in straight sets to Georgia Tech at Comcast Pavilion in College Park on Friday October 17 , 2008. David Lovell/DC Sports Box
COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- The Maryland Terrapins women's volleyball team is struggling to improve, and is in fact gaining ground, albeit perhaps slowly. The final tally of yesterday's match against the visiting Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets was still 3-0, making it their 8th straight-set loss this season. The score is not where one would look to find the improvement, however.

A better place to look is the box score. To compare against the Terps' most recent three-set loss, to Virginia Tech on October 3, here are some notable statistics. The Terps attacked more last night, a total of 37 team attacks compared to 28, across all three sets. The attacks were more evenly spread across the three sets. While the number of attack errors went up by one, the rate per attack is down considerably. The overall attack percentage is up to 0.155, from 0.104. On the defensive side, the digs went up from 38 to 46. Finally, a small but very important statistic, service errors, decreased from 6 to 3. The thing about service errors is that they can mean the game in the closing serves, and they are moral depleters. Athletes would much prefer to get beaten by their opponents than by themselves.

What this cursory examination of statistics means is that the coaching staff of Tim Horsmon, Tami Ores, and Jason Oliver is doing its job. The athletes are working on clearing up their heads to avoid mental mistakes. They are responding better to pressure to avoid autonomous errors. And they are improving their physical skills at the game. While the final score doesn't reveal it, this is a much improved team in just two weeks. When you are struggling at 5-14 overall and 1-6 in conference (coming into the game), this is all there is to do: get better. There's still a season to be made out of this. There's still next week, next opponent. For over two thirds of these girls, there's still next season. For every last one of them, there's still life, and these lessons of perseverance and continual improvement will hold them in good stead for all of these events.

All of this being said, one gander at the scoreboard will show another interesting statistic: 25-22, 25-22, 25-22. Not only did all three sets end identically, however, they progressed very similarly. Maryland was pressuring in each set, and realistically in a position at one point or another to win every one of them. In the first set, they got to 20-20 before the Jackets put on their final push. In the second, they came from down 18-13 to down 20-18 in the middle third. In the final set, they scored five straight points to go from 23-16 to 23-21, with nearly enough momentum to pull off the match.

Leading the Terrapins offensively was #8 Maggie Schmelzle. Contributing much more solidly, she racked up 12 kills to lead all players on both teams. She also recorded a team-high 12 digs on defense. Behind Schmelzle in the kill department were #3 Katie Usher (7), #9 Michelle Kenning (6), and #11 Lisa Scott (5). Defensively, libero #21 Bethany Springer followed Schmelzle with 11 digs.

The Yellow Jackets were led by #15 Brittany Roderick with 11 kills, #24 Talisa Kellogg with 10, and #10 Chrissy DeMichelis with 9. Defensively, #14 Allie Niekamp racked up a game-high 18 digs, vastly out-pacing all of her teammates in this regard.

The Terps fall to 5-15 overall and 1-7 in the ACC after tonight's match. Georgia Tech improves to 13-5 overall and 5-3 in the ACC. The Terps' next match is at home on Sunday against Clemson, with game time at 1 pm. The Tigers will enter that match with a 14-5 overall , 6-2 ACC record, making them very similar to this Georgia Tech team. Maryland will have its hands full, and perhaps have another opportunity to show its determination to improve. Georgia Tech travels to Boston College on Sunday.