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Maryland volleyball loses in straight sets to No. 8 Penn State

The Nittany Lions make quick work of the Terps in the Xfinity Center.

Maryland volleyball vs Michigan Sarah Sopher / Testudo Times

Two weeks ago, Maryland volleyball played arguably its best match of the season, taking No. 8 Penn State (16-3, 9-1 Big Ten) to five sets in State College.

On Saturday, Maryland (12-10, 4-6) was hoping to finish its upset in a rematch, but instead the script was flipped. The Terps, on the main floor of Xfinity Center for the first time this season, were shut down on offense and weren’t competitive against the Nittany Lions, who won in straight sets.

“I was pretty disappointed in our performance. I didn’t think I had the team ready to go,” head coach Adam Hughes said. “I didn’t think we started on time and that was one of our goals for this match. I thought we were crawling our way and giving ourselves some opportunities, but we just shot ourselves in the foot too often.”

In the teams’ first meeting, Maryland took a set in Happy Valley for the first time in nearly 40 years. But on Saturday, Penn State took control from the start and dominated on both sides of the ball.

The Nittany Lions grew the lead quickly and added on, rattling off a 5-1 run early and an 8-2 run to break out to a 15-8 advantage. Maryland tried to work its way back into the set, using three straight Penn State service errors to cut the deficit to 22-18.

Penn State’s attack couldn’t be stopped as the Nittany Lions hit .419 with 17 kills, Jonni Parker and Tori Gorrell leading the team with six kills each in the set. Maryland struggled to generate offense with just eight kills in the set.

“We knew that they’d make some adjustments based on what they saw against us last time,” Hughes said. “I thought they did a pretty good job affecting our game plan. I thought we were making adjustments late, but they were quicker at making those adjustments than we were.”

What momentum Maryland had from its five set win at Northwestern was lost from the start. That continued in set two, where despite a better early response, Penn State was able to execute with ease.

The Nittany Lions’ defense was key to its dominance. Coming into the match, Penn State held opponents to a .185 hitting percentage, and it was on against the Terps as several key digs kept points alive, eventually winning the point for the Nittany Lions.

“They did do better defensively compared to us,” sophomore Rainelle Jones said. “I personally couldn’t get the ball down. The libero was doing really well.”

Despite trailing as big as six points late, Maryland cut the deficit to 21-19 after a 7-3 run, Penn State answered back, closing the set on a 4-1 run to take a commanding 2-0 match lead.

Maryland’s answer in set three was the best of the match as the Terps jumped out to a 10-7 lead, only to lose it after Penn State went on a 5-0 run, including three straight kills from Serena Gray.

“I think it was our errors, a lot of stuff on our side,” redshirt sophomore Katie Myers said. “They kept the service pressure on us throughout the whole match, especially in the third, but I think it comes down to outside of the net.”

The Terps had their best offensive set of the match, but the Nittany Lions eventually overpowered them en route to a straight-set victory.

Three things to know

1. Maryland couldn’t generate offense. The reason for Maryland’s success at Penn State was an aggressive attack out of the gate. The Terps struggled on Saturday to expose the Nittany Lion defense and were silenced in the match.

2. Penn State was overwhelming on the attack. The Nittany Lions abused Maryland’s defense, nearly doubling the Terps in kills through the first two sets. The match felt less like Maryland played sloppy and more that the Terps were simply beaten by a better team.

3. The Nittany Lions saved everything. Penn State’s defense wasn’t allowing any Maryland attack to fall, shown through the Nittany Lions’ 103 total attacks and 42 digs, both significantly more than the Terps.