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Maryland volleyball wins first Big Ten match in victory over Rutgers

The Terrapins and Scarlet Knights battled for the second time this week. This time, however, Maryland came out victorious as they took the match in four sets.

Jake Spitz

Maryland and Rutgers played evenly for the majority of the first set. Liz Twilley led the way for the home team as back-to-back kills gave UMD a 6-4 lead.

Later in the set, Whitney Craigo served consecutive aces to put Maryland in front 14-12. Adreene` Elliott served an ace shortly after and Rutgers was forced to call a timeout trailing 16-12. Elliott's ace capped a 7-1 Terrapin run.

Rutgers continued to battle and forced a Maryland timeout trailing 19-18. Out of the timeout, they were able to tie the game but gave the lead back on a service error. The Scarlet Knights pulled in front 21-20 on a service error, and then blocked an Elliott attempt to push their lead to two. Maryland was forced to use its second timeout.

Maryland was able to tie the set at 22, but Rutgers took the next two points and led 24-22. Maryland forced a second set point, but the visitors went on to win 25-23.

The score was tied 11 times and there were five lead changes in the first set.

Twilley continued to shine early in the second set. Two strong kills gave Maryland a 4-3 lead. Hailey Murray followed with two big blocks and Maryland found themselves leading 7-5.

Maryland came up with a huge play shortly after. Kelsey Wicinski retrieved a ball on the other side of the net to keep the play alive and it was followed by a Rutgers attack error. Craigo followed with a kill and the Terrapins were up 10-6 when Rutgers called a timeout.

"I thought Wicinski played out of her mind," Aird explained. "I brought her here to play a role and she's tough, she passes the ball great and she competes."

Wicinski explained that her play isn't one that occurs very often.

"That's a play that every volleyball player dreams of making," she said. "It was really cool that I was able to make it."

Wicinski led the team with 23 digs, a career-high for the freshman libero.

The strong play got the whole team excited, and UMD seemed poised to win the set. Despite falling behind, though, Rutgers was able to keep the set close. They closed the gap to 17-15 with three straight points when Maryland called a timeout.

Maryland never let the lead slip away. They  went on to win the second set, 25-23, behind strong offensive play from Craigo and Elliott.

Craigo posted six kills and zero errors in the set. Elliott and Twilley also made major contributions with eight and seven kills respectively.

Rutgers played very well defensively early in the third set, but Maryland was still able to find ways to score. The home team grabbed an 11-6 lead and forced a Scarlet Knights timeout. A questionable call out of the timeout that favored the visitors led to a very animated coach Aird. Rutgers then followed with two more points, and the Maryland lead was cut to two.

With Rutgers within one point of the lead later in the set, Twilley rose up for a block to keep her team in front. Maryland would then extend the lead to 15-12.

The Scarlet Knights defense was able to keep them in the set, but hitting and serving problems plagued them throughout.

"I think Rutgers plays hard and I think they're well coached," Aird said. "Those kids played hard and they competed.

Despite their offensive woes, Rutgers was able to take the lead late in the set. Their 19-18 advantage was followed by a Terrapin timeout.

Maryland would not go away. They fought back to tie the score at 21, and a third ace from Craigo put them back in front during a Rutgers timeout.

An Elliott kill put the Terps at set point with Sam Higginbothem was called upon to serve. She served an ace and Maryland found themselves one set away from their first Big Ten victory.

The Terrapins used the momentum gained in the third set to quickly jump out to a 5-1 lead. The lead would not last, though, as Rutgers fought back to take a 6-5 advantage.

Craigo and MacGregor joined forces to block two Scarlet Knight attacks, bringing their team within one and then tying the score at 11. Elliott followed with a kill, and the the lead was back in favor of the home team.

Maryland rallied to steal two more points and led 14-11 when Rutgers called a timeout. The Scarlet Knights had an 18-15 lead when the Terps called a timeout.

MacGregor served an ace to give her team a 20-16 lead later in the set. Rutgers called their second timeout noticing the momentum building in Maryland's favor.

Out of the timeout, Twilley powered home her 12th kill and the Terrapins could smell victory.

With Xfinity Pavilion roaring, Maryland was at match point. The first match point ended with a service error. The second ended with a Rutgers kill. The team finally clinched a victory on a block by Murray and Twilley at third match point.

The win was Maryland's first since September 12th against Navy. Elliott recorded her first career double-double as she tallied 19 kills and 10 digs.

While it is always great to earn a victory, Aird knows there's a long way to go.

"This isn't my super bowl," he explained. "I want to get better every week and every match."

Maryland's 11th victory of the season pushes them past last season's win total. They will face Iowa next Friday and No. 3 Nebraska on Saturday.