#18 USC rebounds against Oklahoma, 3-1

COLLEGE PARK, Maryland – The USC women’s volleyball team defeated Oklahoma Friday afternoon at the Xfinity Center, 3-1, to close out the Maryland Challenge behind a strong performance from senior opposite hitter Brittany Abercrombie.

USC got off to a slow start in game one, thanks in part to an impressive performance from Oklahoma junior opposite hitter Madison Drescher (six kills) in game one.

Her kills weren’t enough to undo her three errors, including an attack that was rejected by USC’s Brittany Abercrombie and Brittany Welsh, helping the Trojans climb back in the game.

Abercrombie and sophomore outside hitter Khalia Lanier combined for nine kills and two assists as they rallied the Trojans over a Sooners squad that was dispatched by Maryland, 3-0 (25-19, 25-15, 25-23), earlier in the day.

Drescher redeemed herself with a strong game two, finishing clean while tacking on five more kills to her total.

Junior outside hitter, Alyssa Enneking, added six kills of her own as Oklahoma rallied late to take game two, 25-23.

The Sooners came out strong in game three before their coach, Santiago Restrepo, received a red card for arguing over the pace of play with his team leading by one.

His red card tied the game, gave Southern California the ball and momentum to go on a 5-1 run.

From there the Trojans pulled away to win game three, 25-20, behind a strong offense led by Lanier (six kills), senior middle blocker Jordan Dunn (two kills and a block) and sophomore opposite hitter Daley Krage (three kills).

Game four was an opportunity for those in attendance to see just how truly dominate USC’s star opposite hitter, and 2015 All-Pac 12 selection, Brittany Abercrombie, can be.

The senior from Carlsbad, California scored the Trojans first two points as the Sooner defense had no gameplan to repel her punishing attacks.

Abercrombie (four kills), Lanier (seven kills) and junior outside hitter Alyse Ford (three kills) accounted for 60% of the Trojan offense in game four as the Women of Troy saught to end their part in the Maryland Challenge on a high note.

Oklahoma managed to claw their way back into the game late behind Drescher (three kills) and Enneking (four kills).

But it wasn’t enough as Abercrombie stepped up and ended Oklahoma’s short lived comeback, finishing off the Sooners with USC’s final two points of the game.

USC saw three players (Lanier, Abercrombie and Krage) finish with double digit kills, while two others, Reni Meyer-Whalley and Cindy Marina, finished with double digit assists.

After the game, Abercrombie said how glad she was to come away with a win, especially after the let down performance USC had against Maryland.

Ever the team leader, she also commented on her desire to cut down on errors over the remainder of the season as a way to personally help the team perform better going forward.

Game Notes:

  • USC finished non-conference play with an identical 8-3 record last season.
  • The win marked USC’s first on the East Coast since defeating Coastal Carolina in the 2014 NCAA Women’s Volleyball Tournament in Chapel Hill.
  • Oklahoma’s 3-9 start marks the program’s worst since 2008 when the Sooners began the season 3-6.
  • The Maryland Challenge marks the end of a four year rotating series between Maryland, USC and Washington. Wisconsin participated in year one of the tournament before dropping out. Oklahoma replaced the Badgers the last three seasons.
  • Oklahoma lost all three games to USC, Maryland and Washington as well in last year’s Pac 12 Challenge in Los Angeles.
  • The Women of Troy are now 6-0 all time against the Oklahoma Sooners.

 

Up Next:

The Women of Troy open up conference play against crosstown rival UCLA (6-2, 0-0) this Wednesday at Pauley Pavilion. Game can be seen at 8 p.m. PDT on ESPNU.

Oklahoma begins conference play at McCasland Field House in Norman against the Kansas State Wildcats (6-5, 0-0) on Wednesday at 7 p.m. CDT.

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Trojan Takedown: Unranked Maryland shocks #18 USC 3-0

COLLEGE PARK, Maryland – In a rematch of last year’s game between USC and Maryland women’s volleyball, the score and intensity remained the same. The winner didnt, as Maryland pulled off an early season upset over the 18th ranked Women of Troy, 3-0 on Thursday night at the Xfinity Center.

The game marked the first for each team in the Maryland Challenge, featuring two Pac 12 schools, USC and Washington, and members of the Big 10 (Maryland) and Big 12 (Oklahoma).

Earlier in the day, the Huskies swept the Sooners, 3-0 to kick off the two day tournament in College Park.

Maryland opened strong, taking the first game, 25-22, behind freshman outside hitter, Erika Pritchard, who finished the game with 12 kills and 9 digs.

USC mounted a late comeback, rallying to within two, before the Terrapins pulled away, snapping the Trojans consecutive games streakshut out streak at seven, dating back to a 3-2 victory over the Arkansas Razorbacks on September 8th.

Game two began well for the Trojans, who got off to a 7-3 start before everything fell apart.

Slowly the Terrapins crawled back and tied the game at 18 on the back of freshman outside/opposite hitter, Sam Dreschel, who finished the night with six kills.

The Maryland comeback left USC coach Mick Haley visibly angry on the sidelines.

From there, the Trojans failed to put the Terps away and Maryland took game two, 25-23.

Game three didn’t start any better for USC, as they fell behind early 9-4.

USC’s senior opposite hitter, Brittany Abercrombie, had 10 kills and 4 digs on the night, helping to keep game three within striking distance. USC managed to tie the game at 16, before the Terrapins finished off the Women of Troy in front of a raucous home crowd that supported Maryland from start to finish.

After the game, Maryland coach Steve Aird put the game in the rearview mirror saying that while he was impressed by the Terrapins victory, he was already, “onto Oklahoma.”

Game Notes:

  • Maryland football head coach, DJ Durkin, and Maryland women’s basketball head coach Brenda Frese were in attendance for tonight’s game.
  • Maryland had lost their previous four meetings against USC, including last season’s 3-0 sweep in the Pac 12 Challenge at the Galen Center.
  • The Terps 10-0 start, marks their best opening to a season since the 2005 team won 14 in a row to start the season.
  • USC made its first ever visit to College Park to take on the Terrapins and Sooners.
  • While Maryland and Oklahoma will play three games each over the two day tournament, USC and Washington will only play two as they play each other in conference play on October 1st and 27th.

Up Next:

Maryland plays Oklahoma tomorrow morning at 11 a.m. and Washington at 7 p.m. to close out their non-conference schedule before beginning conference play next week at Ohio State.

The Women of Troy close out their non-conference schedule with Oklahoma tomorrow afternoon at 4 p.m. before returning to Los Angeles this weekend. They open up Pac 12 play on the road against crosstown rival UCLA Wednesday night at Pauley Pavilion.

 

 

Tiger Talk: Maryland 63, Towson 17

COLLEGE PARK, Maryland – Making his first start following a season ending injury to starting quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome, Kasim Hill led the Maryland offense over the Towson Tigers on Saturday afternoon, 63-17.

Hill, a true freshman from Washington, D.C., passed for 163 yards and two touchdowns, before he was pulled in the fourth quarter after the game was safely put away.

All week long, Towson coach Rob Ambrose remained confident in the Tigers ability to travel down I-95 and come home with a win.

But the Maryland offense picked up where it left off a week ago in Austin, driving 62 yards for an opening drive touchdown.

On the next drive, Kasim Hill drove the Terps 60 yards in 99 seconds, culminating in a 34-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver D.J. Moore.

Maryland’s running game followed up a 263-yard performance against Texas with a 367-yard day, including a 74-yard touchdown run by Ty Johnson on the Terrapins third possession of the game.

With 5:56 left in the first quarter, the scoreboard read 21-0 Maryland.

After Maryland’s third touchdown of the game, Towson put together a sustained 11 play, 81-yard drive, capped off by a 10-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Stover to Jabari Allen that cut the Terps lead to 14.

Stover, making his first career start in place of injured starter, Morgan Mahalak, made two critical mistakes that left Coach Ambrose incensed on the Towson sidelines.

On Towson’s next possession, the freshman from Pennsylvania threw a pass down the right side of the field that was intercepted by Maryland’s Darnell Savage Jr., who returned it 75 yards for a touchdown, increasing Maryland’s lead to 28-7.

Stover later missed a wide open tight end Joe Green in the end zone on a pass he admitted to rushing after Maryland’s defense broke through the Towson offensive line.

While the Tigers front seven struggled to stop Maryland’s running backs all afternoon, Towson’s pass defense improved from a week ago when they gave up 185 yards through the air to Morgan State.

After the game, Coach Ambrose who said he was, “on a different continent than happy,” did express his admiration for the offense’s ability to move the ball, something they struggled to do against Morgan State.

Ambrose was also pleased with punter Pat Toomey, who averaged five yards more a kick compared to a week ago, including a 65-yard punt in the fourth quarter.

Prior to the game, Maryland coach DJ Durkin demoted placekicker Adam Greene over his struggles to start the season, replacing him with graduate transfer, Henry Darmstadter, who converted all nine extra point attempts.

The home crowd at Maryland Stadium trickled in throughout the first quarter, but the student section was full before kickoff for the first time in years.

Noon starts usually signal poor student attendance which hinders Maryland’s home field advantage, as the student section is strategically located behind the visitor’s bench.

It remains to be seen if Maryland’s blowout victory will be enough to catapult them into the AP Top 25 on Sunday, but Towson coach Rob Ambrose believes if they aren’t, they’ll be there soon.*

GAME NOTES:

  • Towson QB Morgan Mahalak was scratched with an upper back injury. Coach Ambrose told media after the game he knew Thursday afternoon his red shirt junior quarterback would not play against the Terrapins.
  • Towson defensive coordinator, Lyndon Johnson, made his return to College Park where he served as an assistant coach the last five seasons.
  • Maryland wide receiver Jacquille Veii and backup placekicker Danny Sutton both transferred to College Park from Towson.
  • Maryland wide receiver Avery Edwards was ejected after two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.

UP NEXT:

  • Maryland: Bye Week. The Terrapins return to action September 23 at home against Central Florida.
  • Towson: The Tigers travel to St. Francis (PA) next Saturday night to take on the 2-0 Red Flash in Loretto, PA.

*Updated 10:30 p.m. September 10, 2017: Maryland remains out of the Top 25, coming in 31st (AP) and 32nd (Coaches).

 

Tiger Talk: University of Maryland preview

Game 2: Towson Tigers at Maryland Terrapins (-36)

When: 12:00 PM EDT

Where: Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium

Series: Maryland leads the all time series 1-0

When the Tigers run onto the field this Saturday at Maryland Stadium, they’ll do so as 36 point underdogs.

But don’t bother telling them that; especially Coach Rob Ambrose.

Following Wednesday afternoon’s practice, Ambrose reiterated the point he made following Towson’s victory over Morgan State, that as many great players as Maryland has, only 11 can be in on any one play.

While Coach Ambrose and the team remain optimistic, Towson has its work cut out for them.

Not only has Maryland never lost to an FCS Team, they are coming off their greatest game in seven seasons following a shlacking of the Texas Longhorns in Austin last weekend.

Maryland will be without quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome for the remainder of the season after it was revealed he tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) during the third quarter against Texas.

The Terrapins now turn to Kasim Hill, a freshman pro-style quarterback from Washington, D.C. who completed all three of his passes after replacing Pigrome last Saturday.

Hill represents a tough challenge for the Towson defense as he is more likely than Pigrome to leave the pocket and take off if a play breaks down than Pigrome was.

Towson cornerback Monty Fenner isn’t worried though, and likens facing Hill to last weekend’s matchup against Morgan State quarterback Elijah Staley.

“We didn’t expect what we’d know from Morgan’s quarterback…all we see on paper is 6’6″, 250 pounds, not what can this kid do.”

Fenner continued, “[Hill] is able to get out [of the pocket] more, but at the moment I feel like our defense is playing a lot faster than before.

Towson’s home opener drew just over 6,500 fans last weekend.

Maryland’s opener tomorrow is expected to draw over 50,000, but again the powers that be in Baltimore County aren’t worried.

They’ve been here before.

Last season the Tigers opened up on the road against South Florida at Raymond James Stadium (home of the Tampa Bay Buccanneers).

In 2014, they played in Morgantown against West Virginia, and in 2012 the Tigers competed well against LSU at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge.

But all the confidence in the world won’t do much good if Towson’s offense performs as poorly as it did against Morgan State, only eclipsing 100 yards of offense on the final drive of the game.

In the two teams only previous meeting, a 28-3 Maryland win, Towson outgained the Terrapins by 43 yards, ran nine more plays and had one more first down than Maryland, reminding everyone games are won and lost in the trenches, not on paper.

Blue Ring Sports will have live team coverage from College Park tomorrow afternoon.

Game Notes:

Towson: Quarterback Morgan Mahalak was under the weather on Wednesday afternoon and missed practice. Coach Ambrose fully expects him to start on Saturday, However if Mahalak is unable to go, Ryan Stover would make his first career start.

Maryland: The Terrapins were 4-2 at Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium last season and have won their last 11 home openers. Their last home opening loss in College Park came against No. 25 Clemson in 2005.

Longhorn takedown! Maryland upsets No. 23 Texas

The Tom Herman era in Austin has gotten off to a rocky start as the No. 23 Longhorns fell at home to unranked Maryland, 51-41.

Making matters worse, this was Texas’ first home opening loss in twenty years, and the worst debut in Longhorn coaching history.

The victory marks the Terrapins first win over a ranked opponent since defeating N.C. State seven years ago, and the most points Maryland has ever scored against a ranked opponent.

While Texas closed within three points early in the fourth quarter, the game was all Maryland, all day.

The Terps needed only 12 completions to win this afternoon; nine from Tyrrell Pigrome and three from Kasim Hill, who filled in following an injury to Pigrome late in the third quarter.

Thanks to a strong running game led by Ty Johnson (12 carries, 132 yards and a touchdown) that carried the ball 43 times for 263 yards and four touchdowns, that was more than enough.

Texas Quarterback Shane Buechele wasn’t so lucky and was forced to carry the Longhorn offense all afternoon, as Maryland’s defense stuffed Texas’ run game, holding them to 98 yards on 31 carries, while notching eight tackles behind the line of scrimmage.

The untold story of the game was that Texas only had a chance thanks to their defense and special teams.

Cornerback Holton Hill got the Longhorns on the board early, returning a Tyrrell Pigrome pass 31 yards for six, and later blocked an Adam Greene kick, returning it 65 yards to pay dirt, cutting Maryland’s lead to 13 at that point.

Reggie Hemphill-Mapps returned a Wade Lees punt 91 yards with five minutes to play in the third quarter, cutting Maryland’s lead to three, but the Longhorns would get no closer.

Kicker Joshua Rowland, a junior college transfer from Madison, Mississippi, didn’t help the cause with a 42 yard miss and a blocked 44 yard attempt on the following Texas drive.

But it wasn’t enough, as the Terrapins defense, led by Jermaine Carter Jr. and converted linebacker Shane Cockerille shut down the Longhorns all afternoon.

In addition to the eight tackles for loss, Buechele was sacked five times as the Texas offensive line struggled to protect the sophomore from Arlington, Texas.

This early season unexpected victory sets Maryland up for a big home opener next week against Towson, followed by a bye week and game against UCF to close out non-conference play before opening B1G play as they close out the month of September.

Texas meanwhile, has to regroup quickly as San Jose State comes to Austin next weekend before the Longhorns make their long anticipated return to Los Angeles as they take on the USC Trojans in a rematch of the 2006 BCS Championship game before they begin Big 12 play on the road in Ames against Iowa State.

In defense of Jon Daniels

Following the devastation across Southeast Texas caused by Hurricane Harvey, Rangers GM Jon Daniels was asked by Major League Baseball officials if he would be willing to relocate this week’s series against the Houston Astros to Arlington in exchange for the September series between the two clubs shifting to Houston.

He refused.

Since then, Daniels has taken fire, including from one fan who responded on Twitter, “Go to hell, JD!”

In defense of Jon Daniels, he did the right thing as a general manager of a Major League Baseball team fighting for its playoff life, and at the end of the day, baseball is a cruel business where players can be traded for less than a cup of coffee.

Literally.

Three weeks ago, reliever Ernesto Frieri was sold by Daniels to the Seattle Mariners…for a dollar.

Cost of an ” XL Stay-Hot” cup of coffee from 7-Eleven: $1.79.

After two straight AL West crowns, the Rangers are suffering through a miserable season marred by terrible pitching and injuries.

And yet somehow, even with Opening Day starter Yu Darvish being traded to the Dodgers, the Rangers sit only three games behind the Minnesota Twins  who currently occupy the second wild card spot.

So while they are within striking distance of the playoffs for a third straight year, there is little room for error in the month-plus remaining this season.

Which brings me to why Daniels made the right call from a strictly baseball perspective.

By shifting this series to St. Petersburg and Tropicana Field – home of the Tampa Bay Rays – Daniels and the Rangers no longer have to play at Minute Maid Park during the regular season, where they are a paltry 3-4.

Tuesday night’s game was evidence of just how good a decision Daniels made. The Rangers anhiliated the Astros 12-2 in front of just over 3,000 fans, taking away the home field advantage the Astros would have enjoyed this week in front of 30,000 plus fans in Houston.

Daniels, 40, has led Texas since October 2005 when he took over for John Hart, who stepped down as GM after four seasons, and has restored a winning tradition that Hart never could.

Since the 2006 season, the Rangers have won back to back AL Penants (2010-11), back to back AL West titles (2015-16) and made the playoffs five times.

So while it might seem cruel and heartless to baseball fans, and Astros fans in particular, as the great Al Davis said, “Just win baby!”

And that’s exactly why Jon Daniels wouldn’t move the games.

Wins.

 

Why I let go of anthem protests, and you should too

I used to be like you.

“How dare these athletes making millions of dollars sit down, lock arms or kneel during the playing of our national anthem?”

Then it became abundantly clear.

There is too little time on Earth for you or me to care if Marshawn Lynch or Colin Kaepernick have a hand over their heart or not during the national anthem.

“But Matt that’s an affront to the soldiers who gave their lives at Normandy and Iwo Jima to defend this country.”

No, your whining about someone exercising their fundamental freedom of expression is the affront.

I think at Normandy and Iwo Jima, the troops had more on their minds than what a football player who wasn’t even born until forty years after the end of the Second World War would do in 2016.

You know, like trying to survive being shot at by the Germans and Japanese respectively.

In a league where players are doping, sometimes more than once (Darren Waller), or running into trouble with the law (Rolando McClain), are Colin Kaepernick or Marshawn Lynch’s anthem protests the biggest problem facing the NFL?

Now do I agree with their actions? Absolutely not.

In fact, I think it’s completely ridiculous.

Not standing for the national anthem makes you look stupid and alienates prospective allies from your cause.

Growing up in Baltimore I was raised on the story of Francis Scott Key and The Star Spangled Banner.

I saw Michael Phelps win eight gold medals at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, and sing along with a tear in his eye, and a hand over his heart, as the “Oh say does that Star Spangled Banner yet wave” portion of the anthem played in the background.

Three years ago next month, we commemorated the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Baltimore and the writing of The Star Spangled Banner.

So yea the anthem means a great deal to me.

But so does the U.S. Constitution, which means no matter how stupid something you say is, you have every right to say it.

And at the end of the day, professional sports is not about social justice.

It’s about winning.

Why else do you think the Raiders signed Lynch, irregardless of his anthem protests while with the Seattle Seahawks.

In the case of Colin Kaepernick, he’s not the electrifying quarterback he once was, but he’s much better than the quarterbacks in Jacksonville – Chad Henne and Blake Bortles, who proved tonight, neither is capable of starting in the NFL.

During his post game presser, Jacksonville coach Doug Marrone made it clear he wasn’t happy with either quarterback’s performance against Tampa Bay.

So cheer up Colin, maybe it will get so bad over the remaining preseason games that Jaguars GM Tom Coughlin will ignore your anthem protests and give you a call.

After all, if I was Coach , and my hide was on the line, I’d rather coach a quarterback who can complete a 15 yard pass to a wide open receiver; something Bortles failed to do on more than one occasion tonight.