Down 9-8 in the fifth set, Maryland desperately needed to put together a run as it did not have much time to spare. With Northwestern in the position to attack and expand its lead, middle blocker Rainelle Jones came up clutch yet again for the Terps with a solo block, her fourth of the match.
This block energized Maryland’s entire roster as it sparked a crucial 4-0 run for the Terps. Maryland would never let go of its three-point lead, winning the fifth set 15-12.
Maryland’s late run in the fifth set helped it claim victory in its matchup against Northwestern on the road in a five-set showdown (25-23, 25-23, 26-28, 21-25, 15-12). The Terps now improve to 19-10, while the Wildcats fall to 10-18.
The win finally ended Maryland’s four-game losing streak as it was able to take down Northwestern for the first time this season, splitting the season series. The Terps will have one day of rest before facing off against Illinois on Sunday afternoon.
The Wildcats got off to a hot start in the first set, taking a 3-0 lead, with star outside hitter Temi Thomas-Ailara contributing with a kill then block. Maryland responded in a major way, ripping off a 5-0 run, highlighted by three service aces from setter Sydney Dowler.
After exchanging four consecutive points, Maryland came up with a 3-0 run, pushing the lead to four. Maryland’s second service error of the set ended its run, but outside hitter Sam Csire kept the lead at four with her second kill of the set.
The Wildcats finally made a dent in Maryland’s lead 4-1 run. Csire regained the four-point lead for the Terps with two more kills.
With Maryland sitting at set point, the Wildcats needed to make a run. It was middle blocker Tatyana Hardwick who got things started with a powerful kill. A Maryland attacking error put the Wildcats within one, but Neciporuka came through with the set-winning kill.
The Terps had a .178 hitting percentage in the first set, but their four service aces made up for the inefficiency.
Jones got Maryland on the board first with her fourth kill of the match in the next set.
Down 5-4, Northwestern erupted for a 6-0 run that included two service aces by libero Charlotte Cronister. Despite four kills and one block between Dowler and Jones, the Wildcats were not giving up their lead easily, winning 16-10.
Down 17-11, the Terps began to gain some momentum, piecing together a 6-2 run. With Northwestern up 21-18, the Wildcats committed four errors to completely erase their lead.
Middle blockers Ricks and Thompson took advantage of this situation combining for a block, helping the Terps take a 24-22 lead. Neciporuka secured the win with her second set-winning kill.
Both teams had an atrocious hitting percentage, each below .050, but Maryland was able to pull out the win.
Northwestern started strong in the third set with back-to-back kills. Maryland countered with a 4-1 run to go up 4-3.
Down 6-5, Csire flew from the back row to fire a hard-hitting kill at the Wildcats, her sixth of the match. The Terps rallied behind this kill, going on a 4-0 run.
Northwestern didn’t let this lead last for long, immediately exploding for a 3-0 run, tying the set at nine. Maryland quickly answered with a 5-0 run, as the Wildcats kept making errors.
Northwestern continued the trading of runs with a 6-2 run, cutting Maryland’s lead to one. This run snowballed into a 9-3 run as they took their first lead since leading 6-5.
After another Northwestern service ace, outside hitter Ella Grbac hit two consecutive kills that were followed by a masterful kill by Thomas-Ailara. Jones connected on her first swing of the set, putting the score at 22-23.
Jones then began heating up, scoring the next three points for the Terps to go up 26-25. Maryland was unable to score for the rest of the set as a 3-0 Northwestern run sealed the 28-26 third set win.
Csire started the fourth set off with a bang, converting on back-to-back kills, but it was all Northwestern after that as they went on a 13-3 run. 10 of the 13 points were kills as the Wildcats offense started to get in a rhythm.
Maryland finally halted the Wildcat’s run with a 3-0 run, two of the points being Northwestern errors. Down 16-9, the Terps mounted a 7-2 run, bringing the deficit down to two.
After continuously going back and forth, Thomas-Ailara recorded her eighth kill of the set to force a fifth set.
Northwestern outside hitter Hannah Lesiak kickstarted the fifth set with a forceful kill. Errors kept the Terps in it early, but then the offense started clicking as middle blocker Cara Lewis contributed with her first kill of the match at a time of need, tying the set at six.
After a solo block by Jones and another attacking error helps Maryland take its first lead of the set, Northwestern calls its first timeout. Thompson came out of the timeout with an emphatic kill to continue the Terps’ run and force Northwestern to call its final timeout.
Then, Dowler saved a poor pass to set up Lewis for an athletic kill, obtaining a 13-10 lead. Maryland closed out the fifth set soon after, winning 15-12 to avoid a massive collapse.
Three things to know
1. Dowler does it all. Dowler had one of her best all-around games tonight as she was a crucial piece in the Terps win. She finished the night with a team-high 41 assists and three service aces. Dowler also had five kills, 19 digs, and a .455 hitting percentage.
2. Maryland’s inability to close it out shows its recent struggles. Coming into Friday night’s game, Maryland had won just one match since Oct. 31, which came against Rutgers. After that win, the Terps claimed victory in just two sets over the next four matches. Then came tonight’s game with Northwestern. Maryland jumped out to a 2-0 match lead, but it eventually took five sets to close its opponent out. The Terps’ confidence still needs to see an uptick with a few games remaining.
3. Can the Terps build upon this win? Maryland officially concluded its four-game losing streak with this big five-set win over Northwestern. The Terps take on a prestigious program in Illinois on Sunday that has swept two of their last three foes. This match should give the Terps a boost of confidence that they can hopefully bottle to take down the Fighting Illini.