UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Experience and a wave of momentum paid off for the Maryland women's volleyball team last night.
The Terrapins, fresh off an upset victory in the ACC tournament, knocked off Towson in a three-game sweep, 30-23, 30-22, 30-25, in the first round of the NCAA tournament at Penn State's Rec Hall.
Maryland (18-14), which will play the host Nittany Lions in today's second round at 7 p.m., barely made it into the NCAAs after running the table in its conference tournament as the seventh seed.
"The way that we played during that time, I do believe that there's been a new sense of confidence with the team," Maryland coach Janice Kruger said of a squad that will be looking to advance to the third round for the first time in school history tonight.
"We've really felt ourselves gel as a team and that's huge at this time of the year," said senior hitter Jennifer Dewalt, who led the Terps with 15 kills."It always boosts your confidence."
The Terps were able to prevail thanks to a wider variety of hitters for setter Aimee Huddleston to choose from, with four players in double figures in kills. As a team, Maryland had 57 kills to 47 for the Tigers, and Huddleston made 47 assists.
"Once we got our pass going and our defense, ball control there, [Huddleston] was able to move the ball around and give each of our hitters an opportunity to score," Kruger said. "It's makes it a little harder for the defenses to play against us."
The ability to do that was key against a team that was strong defensively, despite being two inches shorter on average among the starters, and was able to dig up many of the Terps' swings. Maryland also had six aces to only three service errors.
Towson only led for two points during the first two games but was in front for a good portion of the third before Maryland took advantage of a few of the Tigers' errors.
A Dewalt kill off a Towson blocker provided the final point, ending the Tigers' first appearance in the NCAA tournament.
Penn State (28-2) survived a third-game scare in sweeping American (23-7) in the night's second match, 30-18, 30-18, 35-33.