After defeating Michigan State in four sets, Maryland volleyball took on No. 13 Penn State for the second time this year. Maryland failed to maintain its three-game winning streak, losing to Penn State in three sets.
Although the Terps had their moments, they were never able to put together a complete set as Penn State erased all of the leads that Maryland built. Outside hitters Paula Neciporuka and Sam Csire still had effective nights despite the loss, combining for 23 kills, 16 digs and six blocks. Csire also had a spectacular first set that included seven kills, five blocks, and a .263 hitting percentage.
Rutgers is coming off back-to-back five-set losses. The Scarlet Knights held a 2-1 lead over Indiana but were unable to close out the match. Rutgers then went head-to-head against Illinois, taking them to five sets. With the fifth set tied at eight, the Fighting Illini went on a 7-4 run to secure the win.
Maryland’s Sunday afternoon game against the Scarlet Knights will be aired on BTN Plus at 1 p.m.
What happened last time
The last time these two teams met earlier this season was on Oct. 20. Maryland desperately needed a win, while they did win its last match against Michigan State at the time, they still lost five of its last seven, falling out of top-25 contention.
Rutgers was still winless in conference play so this seemed like a favorable matchup to get the Terps back on track.
Maryland got out to a hot start in the first set, attaining a 5-1 lead. Rutgers fought back to tie the set at 21, but the Terps were able to finish the job, winning the first set 25-23.
Rutgers seized control of the second set early, jumping to an 8-2 start. Up 17-10, the Scarlet Knights were in prime position to take set two, but a 5-0 run and then a 7-0 run helped the Terps steal the second set as well to take a commanding 2-0 match lead.
The third set was a battle until Maryland ripped off an 8-1 run to officially sweep Rutgers to capture its second straight win for the first time in conference play.
Csire had one of the best games of her short career, finishing the three-set match with 20 kills, 10 digs, three blocks and a .375 hitting percentage.
Setter Sydney Dowler had another great game as she continues to be the Terps’ most consistent player. Dowler recorded 36 assists, four kills and a 1.000 hitting percentage in the win for Maryland.
What’s happened since
Maryland has only competed in two contests following its sweep over Rutgers. The Terps swept the season series against Michigan State with a four-set win and then dropped their sixth match of the season in a three-set loss to Penn State.
Despite their recent loss to Penn State, Maryland has begun to turn things around after its rough start to conference play. The Terps have won three of their last four and will look to add another match into the win column with Rutgers.
Rutgers has also only played two games since facing off against the Terps.
The Scarlet Knights have continued to struggle as they have yet to win a conference match. First, they took on Indiana and were inches away from securing a win before falling in five sets, with each set being decided by five points or less.
Then, Rutgers went up against a very solid Illinois team that handed them its 14th loss of the season with a five-set win.
The Terps enter Sunday’s match with a 17-6 record while the Scarlet Knights sit at 8-14.
Three things to watch
1. Can Laila Ricks and Hannah Thompson bounce back? The two middle blockers had a rough night on Friday in the loss to Penn State. The duo combined for one kill, one block, and a -.273 hitting percentage. Ricks and Thompson are explosive athletes who are extremely valuable for the Terps at the service line and both will need to improve in this next match.
2. Can Rutgers finally come out on top? The Scarlet Knights are 0-11 in conference play and are still searching for their first win. Rutgers has been on the brink of victory the last two matches but hasn’t found a way to come out on top. A win against Maryland would be a massive confidence boost for a team in dire need of one.
3. Can the Terps come away with another sweep following a tough loss? The Terps did not have their best game last match as they got swept by Penn State, including a 25-10 loss in the second set. Maryland finished the match with a .130 hitting percentage and lost the error battle by a -4 margin. Although the Terps swept Rutgers in their last outing, that kind of performance will not help you beat any Big Ten opponent and Maryland will have to find a way to recover quickly.