With the match tied at 1-1, Northwestern volleyball found itself holding a comfortable 23-19 lead, two points away from an important set three win. Then, Maryland exploded for a 4-0 run, in which Northwestern had three errors.
The Terps were looking like they going to steal set three. Luckily for the Wildcats, standout outside hitter Temi Thomas-Ailara took matters into her own hands with an unrecoverable kill, giving Northwestern a 24-23 lead, and eventually the win.
Maryland is now 1-4 in conference play after losing a heartbreaking five-set match to the Wildcats (23-25, 25-19, 23-25, 25-16, 17-15). The Terps fall to 13-4, while Northwestern improves to 7-9.
The loss extends the Terps’ three game losing streak and marks the sixth loss in program history against Northwestern. Maryland will have the opportunity to get its revenge on Nov. 17 in Evanston, Illinois.
Thomas-Ailara got things started for the Wildcats with a hard hitting slam. Middle blocker Rainelle Jones was able to stop Northwestern’s next attack, sending the ball right back at them to get the Terps on the scoreboard.
Jones wasn’t done there, delivering two kills and one more block to give the Terps a 10-9 lead. Thomas-Ailara was not letting Maryland pull away, talling four kills on a .375 hitting percentage.
After a 3-0 run by Northwestern, Maryland applied pressure, forcing three errors that accumulated to a 5-0 run. Another Thomas-Ailara kill halted the run, but it wasn’t enough to get anything going for the Wildcats as a quick 2-0 run gave the Terps a four point lead, the biggest of the set.
Northwestern wasn’t defeated yet, as a combination of kills and Maryland errors gave the Wildcats their third lead of the set, forcing an Adam Hughes timeout. Coming out of the timeout, Northwestern setter Alexa Rousseau contributed with back to back aces, giving the Wildcats a 20-17 lead.
In desperate need of a response, middle blocker Hannah Thompson came up with two clutch kills to tie the set at 20. With the set tied at 21, two crucial errors by the Terps put Northwestern in a 24-21 hole.
With their backs against the wall, the Terps energized the home crowd with two kills, but another Maryland error helped the Wildcats hold on for a 25-23 set one win.
Outside hitter Sam Csire netted Maryland the first point of the set with a precision kill, setting the tone. It was Northwestern who took an early lead, however, as a combination of kills and aces put them up 7-4.
Csire started the quick turnaround with another kill, sparking a 7-1 run. Csire had a total of three kills on this run and a skillful kill by setter Sydney Dowler left the Wildcats and crowd in awe.
The run took a short intermission as Northwestern scored back to back points, but Jones resumed the Terps dominance with an empathic kill and three blocks, giving Maryland a 17-11 lead. On the brink of a set loss, the Wildcats strung together a 6-2 run, cutting the lead to four.
Within one point of winning set two, Csire finished the set in the same fashion she started it, with a masterful kill, signaling to the Wildcats that this was not going to be an easy match.
Rousseau earned Northwestern the first point, but Jones immediately responded with a kill of her own. After going down 5-2, Maryland rattled off a 3-0 run to tie the set at five.
Middle blocker Tatyana Hardwick gave Northwestern their lead back, as she was the main culprit in the Wildcats 6-0 run. The Terps instantly cut the lead to one with a 6-1 run, capitalizing on sloppy play from the Wildcats.
The Northwestern mistakes didn’t last, asmultiple kills helped them gain a 18-13 advantage. The teams continued to battle, but with the Wildcats within four points of taking a 2-1 match lead, Maryland was running out of time.
The Terps were not afraid of the moment, as two kills and a block brought them within two. After forfeiting two points, Maryland tied the set at 23. Northwestern was able to pull through with a Thomas-Ailara kill and Maryland error.
Two-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week Milan Gomillion entered the locker room late in the third set after getting hit in the face on a Northwestern attack.
The Wildcats jumped to a 7-2 lead, as Maryland seemed out of sorts without their star libero. Jones was able to settle the Terps down with monterious kill. Maryland turned this kill into a 8-1 run to take the lead.
With the set tied at 11, a multitude of Maryland players contributed to a 5-1 run, putting them in a prime position to tie the match up. Holding a three point lead, ripped off a 4-0 run to go up 21-14.
Maryland secured the fourth set win with a 4-1 run, capped off by a Dowler kill that caught the Wildcat middle blockers off guard.
Jones started out hot in the fifth set, hugging the baseline on two early kills. The two teams were both playing their best volleyball of the match with the score tied at five, and each team only committing one error.
After an unsuccessful challenge, Csire put a little extra on her next kill to pull the lead back to one. Down 9-8, Csire and Jones combined on back to back kills, giving Maryland their first lead of the set.
Tensions were high as the teams continued to go at it, as Maryland held a 13-12 lead. Down 14-12, Northwestern battled back to tie the game at 14 and force extra points.
Within a point of victory, Thomas-Ailara came up with another crucial kill to officially win the five-set match.
Three things to know
1. Jones dominated at the net. The former Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week was unstoppable at the net tonight after struggling against Ohio State. Jones only recorded one block and a .083 hitting percentage against the Buckeyes, but bounced back in a big way tonight with 14 kills, 8 blocks, and a .448 hitting percentage.
2. Csire’s efficiency struggles continue. Csire has recorded a hitting percentage of .115 or below in each of the Terps last four matches. It is not a coincidence that Maryland has lost all of these matches as Csire is the heart and soul of this team and will need to improve if the Terps want to end this unfortunate run.
3. Where do the Terps go from here? Maryland has now lost four consecutive matches, including this surprising five-set loss to Northwestern who was unranked and held a 6-9 record. The Terps will have one more chance to make things right this weekend with their Saturday night matchup against Indiana.