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Maryland volleyball vs. Penn State preview (part two)

The Terps head to Happy Valley for second match of the season against Penn State.

Courtesy of Maryland Athletics

After sweeping Rutgers on Wednesday, Maryland volleyball took on Michigan State for the second time in a week.

Maryland was able to expand its short winning streak, defeating the Spartans again in four sets. The Terps squeaked out another win as each set was decided by five points or less.

Despite a third set comeback that left the gym in awe, Maryland was able to hold on to win its third straight. This was a game dominated by setter Sydney Dowler who did it all for the Terps. Dowler finished the game with 40 assists, six kills, three service aces, three blocks, and a .750 hitting percentage. On top of that, Dowler recorded her 1,000th career assists, solidifying herself in Maryland’s record books.

“She’s our glue,” said head coach Adam Hughes after the game. “She does a tremendous job when we’re not passing well, still keeping us in rhythm and in system.”

Penn State is coming off of a rough stretch in which it played three top-12 opponents. After losing to No. 6 Purdue in five sets, the Nittany Lions bounced back in a major way with a sweep over No. 12 Minnesota. Following the sweep, Penn State faced off against the best of the Big Ten, No. 3 Wisconsin, and pushed it to five sets in the loss, even leading 2-1 at one point.

Maryland’s Friday night game against the Nittany Lions will be aired on B1G+ at 7:30 p.m.

What happened last time

The first time these two teams met earlier this season was on Sept. 29. Coming into the matchup, Maryland had just one loss on its record as it started the season 13-0 before dropping its game against Minnesota on the road.

Much of the anticipation surrounding the Penn State matchup was the return of former Maryland volleyball star Erika Pritchard who played for the Terps for four seasons before transferring to Happy Valley. However, Pritchard did not play in the matchup nor did she make the trip.

In September, the Terps jumped ahead early with a 2-0 set lead but eventually crumbled as Penn State came from behind to defeat the Terps in a five-set thriller.

After Maryland won the first set 25-19 and the second 27-25, Penn State found itself in a must-win situation.

In the third set, the Nittany Lions put themselves in a position in which they were up 11-10. Penn State’s senior outside hitter Adanna Rollins delivered a kill to spark a 6-1 run for the Nittany Lions eventually leading to them securing their first set of the day.

After starting strong, Maryland struggled to find a response and lost the third set 25-22. The next two sets swung in Penn State’s favor as it left College Park, Maryland with the victory.

The loss marked the 21st consecutive time the Terps fell to the Nittany Lions as they now hold a 28-6 record over Maryland.

Despite the loss, outside hitters Paula Neciporuka and Sam Csire put together a strong performance for the Terps registering 21 and 18 kills, respectively.

What’s happened since

The first two games following the Penn State loss were not successful for the Terps. They fell to Ohio State on the road later that week, 3-0, followed by a five-set loss to Northwestern.

However, after dropping those three consecutive games, Maryland has gone 4-1 in its most recent matchups. The Terps bounced back on Oct. 9 when they swept Indiana. However, nearly a week later, they were swept by Michigan.

Since its loss to Michigan, Maryland has dropped just two sets as it defeated Michigan State on the road, 3-1, Rutgers at home, 3-0, and Michigan State again, this time at home, 3-1.

Penn State has also dropped three games since it faced the Terps.

First, the Nittany Lions defeated Indiana but then lost to then-No. 10 Nebraska, 1-3, before bouncing back against Northwestern, 3-1. Penn State found another win against Rutgers but then fell to then-No. 6 Purdue in five sets.

The Nittany Lions secured a big win against then-No.12 Minnesota, 3-0, but then fell to another ranked opponent in then-No. 3 Wisconsin five sets.

The Terps enter this matchup with a 17-5 record while the Nittany Lions do so with a 14-6 record.

Three things to watch

1. Can the Terps contain Parker? Outside hitter Jonni Parker gave Maryland problems in its first match, tallying 19 kills, five of which came in the crucial fifth set, 13 digs, and seven blocks. Parker was the driving force in Penn State’s comeback and if the Terps don’t figure out a way to slow her down, they could be in for a long night.

2. Pritchard’s long-awaited reunion. Former Terp Erika Pritchard spent the last four seasons with the Terps creating a legacy as one of the best outside hitters in program history. Prior to her fifth year of collegiate volleyball, Pritchard elected to join forces with a Big Ten rival. In the first match between Penn State and Maryland, Pritchard didn’t even travel to College Park, making this reunion that much more climatic.

3. Can Maryland finish the job this time? In their last match against Penn State, the Terps held a commanding 2-0, looking to defeat their second conference opponent of the season. After a tightly contested third set, it was all Penn State as it took care of the Terps in the fourth and fifth set to complete the upset. Maryland has one final swing at Penn State to get its revenge to prove it can beat a program that has historically dominated them.