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Maryland volleyball secures a three-set win over Rutgers

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The Terps have now won two straight games.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Down 17-10, it seemed as though the Rutgers Scarlet Knights had a cakewalk to a win in the second set, but Maryland volleyball outside hitter Paula Neciporuka took advantage of Rutgers’ overconfidence, delivering a potent kill to put the Terps back in it.

This kill flipped a switch for the Terps as they went on a 5-0 run to cut the lead to two. Maryland officially completed the seven-point comeback as outside hitter Sam Csire secured the win with a skillful kill that the Scarlet Knights could not handle.

“Our defense told me to swing away, that they got me behind me if I get blocked,” Csire said. “I was just really confident.”

After losing another close-set, Rutgers could not recover and eventually lost the match to Maryland in straight sets. The Terps have now won their fourth conference game, with the straight-set win over Rutgers (25-23, 25-22, 25-20) on Wednesday evening in College Park.

The Terps now improve to 16-5 on the season, while Rutgers falls to 8-12, remaining winless in conference play.

After losing both of its matchups last year, Maryland gets its revenge in this one, winning its 18th game all-time against Rutgers. The Terps and Scarlet Knights will meet again this season in approximately 11 days as Maryland will travel to Piscataway, New Jersey for a Sunday afternoon match.

It was Maryland middle blocker Rainelle Jones who got the game started, poking the ball over Rutgers’ first line of defense for the kill. After multiple Scarlet Knights errors, the Terps found themselves up 5-1.

Rutgers made up for its lackluster play with four kills and an ace, tying the game at seven. The match then became a back and forth affair as neither team was able to string together more than two points in a row.

This game quickly became a battle at the net as each team had at least eight kills and two blocks with Maryland holding a 20-18 advantage. Errors became a theme as it seemed that whichever team cleaned up its play first would come out on top in the tight first set.

After another Maryland error to tie the game at 21, Neciporuka got the first of three consecutive kills in a row, putting Maryland one point away from a win. Rutgers still had some fight left in them, converting on a block and a kill, putting pressure on the Terps to close that set out.

Middle blockers Hannah Thompson and Laila Ricks got it done for the Terps, stuffing an attack attempt by outside hitter Anastasiia Maksimova to win set one 25-23. Maryland was able to pull out the win despite only having 11 kills on a .118 hitting percentage.

It was Rutgers who jumped to the early lead in the second set as five kills and two aces gave them an 8-2 lead. Csire was responsible for the lone Maryland kill, her fifth of the match.

Csire’s sixth kill came at a much-needed time as it ended the 4-0 Rutgers run and sparked a 4-0 run for the Terps. Csire didn’t stop there, recording Maryland’s next three points as it continued to erase the Scarlet Knights lead.

Then, Rutgers exploded for a 5-1 run, regaining its initial six-point lead and forcing Maryland to call its second timeout. The Scarlet Knights earned the first point out of the timeout after a long rally, but it was the Terps who regrouped for a 5-0 run, highlighted by three kills from Neciporuka.

A single kill didn’t halt the momentum as Maryland took its first lead of the set with a 9-1 run, bringing them within one point of a 2-0 match lead. Similar to the first match, Rutgers was not quick to give up, countering with two kills and an ace. Csire ended the Scarlet Knights’ comeback hopes with another powerful kill to take set two 25-22.

Csire continued her dominance with the first kill of the third set. Down 4-6, Rutgers capitalized on Maryland errors with a 4-0 run, giving them the two-point lead. The Terps were able to cut the lead with the set tied at 11, but the Scarlet Knights responded with another 4-0 run.

The Terps refused to let the last set get away from them, piecing together a two-kill, one-block run to diminish the lead to one. Maryland erupted for another late set run to gain a 22-20 lead.

Maryland completed the sweep on a 3-0 run, including another kill by Csire, to close out the Scarlet Knights for good in straight sets.

Three things to know

1. Csire is on fire once again for the Terps. Coming off of an impressive game against Michigan State on Saturday night, Csire did not disappoint. Csire started hot with four kills, one block, and one service ace, and only got better. She finished the match with 20 kills, 10 digs, and a .375 hitting percentage.

“It’s an outcome that came from her hard work, so I give [Csire] a lot of credit for that,” head coach Adam Hughes said.

2. Maryland’s elite offensive attack. The Terps put together their best offensive performance of the season in this one. Maryland recorded 14.33 kills per set and a .300 hitting percentage, its best of conference play. If they can keep this play up, the Terps could find themselves in the top 25 very soon.

3. Maryland has strung together a few wins as of late. After losing four straight games to four Big Ten teams, the Terps have done a good job by bouncing back. Since that losing streak, Maryland has now taken down three out of four opponents. The Terps have beaten Indiana, Michigan State and now Rutgers after Wednesday’s win. Maryland stands with a 16-5 record in 2021 and it will face Michigan State at home next on Oct. 23.