The Maryland women's volleyball team advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament the previous two seasons. And both years, the Terps were swept out, 3-0, by a higher seed.
Maryland's latest chance to survive the first weekend of the 64-team tournament starts today, with a 5 p.m. first-round match against Kentucky (17-11) in Louisville. The winner will likely face ninth-seeded Louisville tomorrow evening. Maryland has never been past the second round.
"That's the hurdle," Coach Janice Kruger said. "It would take us playing pretty flawlessly two days in a row."
The Terps began the year 24-1 and were ranked 24th in the country before a 3-3 finish. The ACC eliminated its postseason tournament this year in favor of an expanded regular season, and Maryland could have clinched its third straight league title with a win last Saturday against North Carolina. The Tar Heels won that match, and the schools shared the league championship.
To advance this weekend, the Terps will need to get the ball to 6-foot-4 middle blocker Rachel Wagener, who is 12th in the nation in blocks per game, and 6-2 middle blocker Stephanie Smith of Whitman High. Both players were first team all-ACC selections.
Also, American (25-9) will play Duke (23-7) in a first-round match at 5 p.m. in Lincoln, Neb.
-- Dan Steinberg