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Maryland volleyball takes down Michigan State in four sets for third straight win

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The Terps came away with tight wins in the first two sets and never looked back.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

After beginning the second set down 7-2, Maryland volleyball was faced with an uphill battle against Michigan State. After climbing all the way back to tie the set at 17, it seemed as though the next team to go on a run would win it.

Luckily for Maryland, middle blocker Hannah Thompson came through in a big way, as she sprung into the air to deliver an uncontrollable kill. After Thompson’s massive kill that awarded Maryland a critical point, the Terps capitalized on her efforts and strung together an impressive 6-0 run.

After finishing the set and gaining a commanding 2-0 match lead, Maryland was able to hold on for the four-set win over Michigan State (25-20, 25-20, 26-28, 25-22), officially taking the two-game season series with the Spartans. The Terps have now won their fifth conference game, improving their Big Ten record to an even 5-5.

“Good resiliency more than anything,” said head coach Adam Hughes after the game. “I’m proud of the group tonight and happy to get the win.”

The Terps also improve to a solid 17-5 on the season, while Michigan State falls to 9-10. Maryland will have six days of rest before heading on the road to face No. 14 Penn State for the second time this season.

Outside hitter Sam Csire picked off right where she left off last game, recording the first kill of the game with a powerful kill. After back-to-back service errors, it was Michigan State’s star outside hitter Sarah Franklin who got on the board for her first kill of the match.

Both teams started out sloppy as seven of the first 12 total points were errors. With the set tied at seven, Csire and setter Sydney Dowler took control with two kills to give the Terps a two-point lead.

After a 3-0 run by the Spartans, outside hitter Paula Neciporuka tied the set up for the Terps, while middle blocker Laila Ricks followed that up with a kill of her own to regain the lead. Maryland turned its 2-0 run quickly into a 4-1 run, tying its biggest lead of the set.

Michigan State did not let Maryland’s lead last for long, though, tying the set at 16. Csire began to lay it on the Spartans with her fourth and fifth kills of the set, sparking a 4-0 run.

Then, outside hitter Biamba Kabengele got rolling with back-to-back monstrous kills, waving her finger after each Maryland block attempt. The Terps didn’t take this too lightly as Dowler responded with an unexpected kill and service ace, catching the Spartans off guard. Within two points of a set-one win, Michigan State sealed its fate with two service errors, giving Maryland the 25-20 win in the opening set.

Dowler was on fire in the first set, totaling nine assists, three digs and two kills on a 1.000 hitting percentage.

Middle blocker Emma Monks built a wall at the net early in the second with three blocks to give the Spartans a 4-0 lead. After accumulating a 7-2 lead, Michigan State forced Maryland head coach Adam Hughes to call his first timeout. The Terps were able to regroup after the timeout with a 5-1 run, cutting the lead to one.

The Spartans were able to halt this run with a 4-1 run, pushing the lead to four. The Terps refused to give in, inching closer and closer towards a tied set.

Maryland capitalized on two Michigan State errors, tying the set at 15 apiece. Thompson gave the Terps their first lead of the set with two consecutive points, one block and one kill.

Maryland never looked back from this point on, rallying for a 6-0 run in which four different Terps played a role. In dire need of a response, outside hitter Cecilee Max-Brown started a 3-0 run for the Spartans, but it wasn’t enough as Csire and Dowler ended it immediately after with a kill and service ace, helping the Terps capture the second set in the form of a 25-20 win.

The Terps came out of the intermission hungry for a sweep, gaining a 3-0 advantage. After trading blows, Maryland went on another 3-0 run to double its lead.

Up 10-6, the Terps increased their lead with four consecutive kills. After an increased deficit of nine, Franklin gave the Spartans some life with two kills, diminishing the lead to six.

Michigan State continued to reduce Maryland’s lead, erupting for a 4-0 run. The Spartans were unable to make up any more ground as each point was countered by the Terps.

Then within a point of defeat, Michigan State had no choice but to play flawlessly, and they did just that. The Spartans exploded for a 5-0 run, putting all of the pressure on Maryland. Neciporuka and Ricks regained the lead for the Terps on back-to-back kills, but Michigan State completed the jaw-dropping comeback with a 3-0 run, winning the third set 28-26.

Franklin started red-hot for the Spartans with two kills, but libero Milan Gomillion was the main catalyst in the Terps’ 5-0 run with two service aces. It didn’t take long for Michigan State to get back in it, taking a one-point lead with a 4-0 run.

Then tied at 16, the fourth set was as evenly matched as it gets with neither team being able to grasp a lead larger than three since Maryland led 6-2 earlier in the set.

After a 3-0 Michigan State run, the Terps ripped off a 3-0 run to attain a one-point lead. Needing only two points to win the match, Neciporuka and defensive specialist Kaylee Thomas got the job done with a kill and service ace, officially clinching the win for Maryland in the fourth set with a 25-22 victory.

Three things to know

1. The Terps’ dominance over Michigan State continued on Saturday night. Just seven days ago, Maryland took on the Spartans for the first time this season. After dropping the first set, the Terps rattled off four-straight set victories and came away with the strong win. Then tonight, it was a very similar scene for a Maryland team that is now riding the momentum of a three-game winning streak. The Terps took control of the match the second time around with the Spartans with close wins in the first and second set and then they eventually closed it out in the fourth set to capture the win.

2. Csire outperformed Franklin. After Franklin dominated in last Saturday’s match, Csire put together her third consecutive impressive performance, finishing the match with 19 kills, eight digs and a .234 hitting percentage. Csire has been the key to Maryland’s recent success and if she can maintain this phenomenal play, the sky’s the limit for the Terps.

“I realized you’re going to make mistakes, you’re going to get blocked, you’re going to hit out, it’s just the matter of fact of bouncing back is what my mindset has been lately,” Csire said.

3. Maryland has virtually erased its rough conference start with recent success. After defeating No. 2 Wisconsin in its first match of conference play, Maryland went on a rough four-game losing streak, making everyone question if the Terps were legit. Since then, the Terps have won four of their last five, including an active three-game winning streak, putting the team’s conference record back to .500. With a match against No. 14 Penn State on the horizon, Maryland has the opportunity to solidify itself as a true threat in the Big Ten.