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Friday, June 21, 2024
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Volleyball drops to No. 25 Terrapins

The team on the losing end of a 3-0 volleyball match doesn't always have much to be happy about. AU was an exception Friday night in College Park, Md., in its first-round match with No. 25 Maryland in the NCAA Tournament before a loud crowd of 1,012, about a fifth were Eagles fans.

Even though the Eagles lost to the Terrapins 3-0, the result belied a grueling match, in which neither team lead by more than six points. The final scores were 30-24, 25-20 and 30-28.

AU (22-10) had a chance to push the match to four games after leading throughout Game three by as many as five points. The Eagles led 28-25 late in the game, but fell as Maryland (27-7) scored the last five points to win the match. The loss dropped AU to 0-5 all-time in the tournament.

The Eagles didn't win a game, but the statistics told a different story. AU hit a .297 percentage to Maryland's .286 percentage and had fewer hitting errors (13 to 17) and almost as many kills (46 to 51) as its favored opponent. The Eagles also made a non-factor of the Terps' blocking, which was ranked 16th in the nation, as each team stood strong for six blocks each.

"If you look at the whole match, I think we out-hit them percentage-wise," AU head coach Barry Goldberg said. "But I just thought we were fantastic at hitting the ball right with them. This is a top-25 program and I thought we were just as strong."

What put the Terps over the top was their serving pounding out 11 aces. The Eagles struggled off the serve, making 12 service errors, the most since a Sept. 6 match against Penn State.

"They just out-served us," Goldberg said. "We knew that they were a pretty decent serving team. They had three players that were jump servers serving pretty hard."

One thing that clearly measured up to Maryland's prestige was AU's senior Karla Kucerkova, who played her final match in a way fitting her illustrious career. She put up numbers across the board (18 kills, a .607 attack percentage, eight digs and one block assis just days after she was named the Academic All-American Volleyball Player of the Year. She proved just as talented as the high-touted competition at the other end of the floor.

Her final match appeared to come to a premature end for a moment when she grimaced with an ankle sprain returning a serve in the opening game. She sat for a few plays, then returned unfazed.

"It certainly didn't have much influence on the game," Kucerkova said after the game, fighting back tears with a smile. "I didn't have any problems hitting because the game was important. There wasn't much time for thinking about injuries unless it's really, really serious."

While Kucerkova was an integral part of the offense, she wasn't the only player providing power on the attack. The team relied on her to carry the scoring burden against strong teams earlier this season, but against Maryland, the Eagles spread the offense around to players like sophomore Cutrina Biddulph (nine kills and two block assists) and junior Natacha Cornaz (seven kills, two block assists and one solo block).

The Eagles may have ended this season physically and emotionally drained as they left Comcast Center that night amidst swirling snow. But for the team from the little conference that challenged the national power to a three-game battle, there were no regrets.

"It was a great match and we played a great game," Goldberg said. "There's nothing to be ashamed of"

As the semester comes to an end and one of the founding members leaves American University, Section 202 has decided to take a trip down memory lane. For our fans, old and new, who are wondering how Section 202 came to be, this episode is a must. Listen along as hosts Connor Sturniolo and Liah Argiropoulos reminisce about the beginning of Section 202 and how it got to where it is now.

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