Maryland volleyball finally has its first Big Ten victory of the season, breaking a nine-match run of defeats against Rutgers on Saturday night. The straight-sets win is not something to go burn a couch over, but it does show that improvement in past matches against top Big Ten opponents has carried over to a low-end Big Ten team.
It was a battle to avoid last place in the standings, and the Terps (9-13, 1-9) kept down the Scarlet Knights (4-19, 0-10) with set scores of 25-20, 25-19 and 26-24.
Rutgers kept tight with Maryland throughout the first set, but Maryland showed the finishing ability so often lacking at the end of tight sets. Better yet, Maryland did it with clean play in its 25-20 first set victory. Only one error and a .469 hitting percentage, coupled by eight kills from Gia Milana, gave the Terps an early lead for the second straight game.
It took a bit until Maryland could gain control over the second set. Rutgers kept intermittent leads until the 14-15 mark. Then the Terps went on an 11-4 run to win the set 25-19. Maryland had six errors in the set, but four aces between Taylor Smith, Samantha Higginbothem and Ashlyn MacGregor gave the Terps a 2-0 match lead for the second straight match.
Unlike Wednesday’s loss to No. 16 Michigan, in which the Terps dropped a 2-0 lead to lose, 3-2, Maryland finished things off with a 26-24 third set win. Trailing for much of the set, Maryland sealed the deal for its first Big Ten win of the season late with the help of Rutgers’ service errors.
Three things to know:
- This was a game the Terps had to win. As coach Steve Aird has said, the Big Ten demands great, while Maryland is just good. The Terps have to beat the few teams in the conference who are just good, and Rutgers, at 4-19, is probably even below that scale.
- Maryland’s serving game was strong against Rutgers. The Terps’ four service errors is their second fewest against Big Ten opposition this year. Maryland’s three service errors against Minnesota only included two aces, while against Rutgers, the Terps had six.
- This was the Terps’ best hitting match all year. Compared to Maryland’s .183 hitting percentage on the year, no Maryland attacker hit under .300 through the first two sets against Rutgers.