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Maryland volleyball defeats Rutgers in three sets for fourth win in last five games

The Terps swept Rutgers for the second time this season.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Maryland volleyball was just one point away from completing the sweep over Rutgers.

As the Scarlet Knights served outside hitter Paula Neciporuka passed the ball to setter Sydney Dowler who set up middle blocker Laila Ricks for an emphatic slam that Rutgers was unable to control, sending the ball straight out of bounds.

This kill gave Maryland its 13th sweep of the season, defeating Rutgers in three sets (24-19, 28-16, 25-12), as they didn’t lose a single set to Rutgers all season. The Terps are now back at .500 in conference play, while Rutgers has yet to win a conference match.

The Terps improve their season record to 18-6, while Rutgers falls to 8-15. Maryland will have five days of rest before taking on Purdue for the first and final time this season.

Rutgers middle blocker Shea McNamara came out of the gates red hot, scoring the Scarlet Knights first three points with two kills and one block. With the score tied at three, Rutgers exploded for a 7-1 run, giving the Scarlet Knights a comfortable lead early.

After trading kills, it was Maryland’s turn to go on a run, as multiple Terps played a role in the 4-0 run. Outside hitter Beka Kojadinovic put a stop to this run with a pair of kills, which was immediately followed by a 3-0 run from outside hitter Sam Csire who was having her way so far.

The Terps officially erased the deficit as middle blocker Hannah Thompson and setter Sydney Dowler connected for a kill. Maryland then took its first lead of the set with a massive 7-0 run, putting them up 22-16.

The two teams exchanged three consecutive kills before a Rutgers attacking error secured the set one win for Maryland.

Maryland had one of its best offensive sets of the season with 19 kills, a .386 hitting percentage, and only two attacking errors.

Middle blocker Laila Ricks started the second set with her first assist of the season as she set up Dowler for the kill. Maryland then took advantage of two errors by the Scarlet Knights, turning them into an 8-1 run.

Shortly after, Rutgers cut the lead in half with three straight kills. The Terps pushed the lead back to six with a 4-1 run that consisted of three Thompson blocks.

Up 16-11, Maryland went on another run, increasing its lead to eight. The Scarlet Knights were not going to let the Terps run away with it, erupting for a 5-0 run to put themselves back in the game.

The Terps clapped back in a major way as four Rutgers errors assisted Maryland in a 6-1 run to close out the second set.

The third set started extremely competitive as outside hitter Paula Neciporuka converted on a kill to tie things up at three.

Up 7-6, the Terps increased their lead by ripping off a 6-0 run as Csire and Neciporuka were responsible for five of those points. Maryland wasn’t done there, however, putting together an 8-1 run that was highlighted by three service aces.

Then down 23-10, a Rutgers comeback seemed nearly impossible as Neciporuka and Ricks completed the sweep with two monstrous kills.

Three things to know

1. Maryland cleans things up on the offensive end. The Terps did not play their best offensive game in Friday night’s three-set loss to Penn State. Maryland finished the match with 30 kills, 16 attacking errors, and a .130 hitting percentage. Today, the Terps did a complete 180 with 41 kills, four attacking errors, and a .385 hitting percentage.

2. Neciporuka was a solid force for Maryland. Neciporuka was the best player on the court for Maryland offensively on Sunday. The graduate student finished with 14 kills and a .382 hitting percentage. She also chipped in with nine digs and one block in the win for the Terps. The outside hitter ended with five more kills than the next-best Terp and she will continue to be a big factor for Maryland for the rest of the season.

3. Are the Terps regaining their diminished momentum? The Terps were looking good on their three-game winning streak until Penn State extinguished all of Maryland’s momentum and confidence. The Nittany Lions exposed the Terps in nearly every facet in the three-set loss, but today Maryland looked sharp and unaffected by its previous outing. The Terps will need to continue this play if they want to upset No. 12 Purdue next weekend.