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Maryland volleyball taken down by Illinois in three sets

The Terps’ record moves to 19-11.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

With Maryland volleyball in the midst of a late 3-0 run in the opening set, Illinois was in jeopardy of forfeiting its lead, which at one point stretched to seven. Coming out of an Illinois timeout, though, outside hitter Jessica Nunge delivered an empathic kill to end Maryland’s late-set run.

The Fighting Illini were able to close out the set with a 3-1 run to secure a 1-0 match lead.

Maryland was unable to respond after dropping the first set, sealing its fate and losing to Illinois in three sets (19-25, 14-25, 17-25). The Terps now sit at 19-11 on the season, while the Fighting Illini improve to 19-10.

The Terps are now 0-11 against Illinois all-time and will have to wait until next season for another chance to win. Maryland has five days to prepare for its last weekend of games as they head back to College Park.

Outside hitter Sam Csire earned the first point of the match for Maryland with a hard-hitting kill. Illinois immediately countered with a three-kill, 4-0 run to take the early advantage.

Middle blocker Rainelle Jones put an end to the run with a controversial kill that was challenged by Maryland head coach Adam Hughes.

With the lead sliced to one, the Fighting Illini ripped off a 5-0 run, taking advantage of two Maryland attacking errors that sailed out of bounds. Outside hitter Paula Neciporuka stopped the run with her second kill of the match.

Illinois then climbed to a seven-point lead on the back of a 3-0 run. After battling back and forth, the Terps were unable to make up any ground, down 22-15.

With the end of the first set rapidly approaching, Maryland desperately needed a substantial run if they wanted a chance to take a 1-0 match lead. An Illinois service error gave the Terps some life as Jones followed that up with a block then kill, forcing an Illinois timeout.

The Fighting Illini were able to regroup after the timeout, closing the set on a 3-1 run.

Illinois was amazing on offense in the first set, totalling 19 kills and a .341 service ace.

The Fighting Illini got back to their roots in the beginning of the second set as the first point came on a service ace from setter Diana Brown. Illinois built on Brown’s ace as it took a 3-0 lead soon after.

After trading blows, Illinois went on another 3-0 run, doubling its lead to six. Then leading 13-9, the Fighting Illini erupted for a 7-1 run, highlighted by Megan Cooney’s two kills and one block.

Middle blocker Cara Lewis got her first kill of the match that was followed by a Csire kill, but it wasn’t enough as Illinois took the second set, 25-14.

Maryland faced a huge deficit against a team that is undefeated when leading 2-0 this season. The Terps had to play flawless volleyball if they hoped to make an improbable comeback.

Unlike the first two sets, Maryland started out the second set strong, jumping to a 4-1 lead. Then, a Maryland service error extinguished the Terps’ momentum as Illinois exploded for an 8-1 run, flipping the script.

A service error killed the Fighting Illini’s run, a service ace by outside hitter Raiana Terry helped Illinois regain its four-point lead.

After exchanging four consecutive points, the Fighting Illini pushed their lead to eight as Terry recorded her ninth and tenth kill of the match.

Down 21-13, Neciporuka converted on a kill then service ace, in hopes of mounting a comeback, but Illinois did not waste time in finishing the match, winning the third set, 25-17, to sweep Maryland.

The three-set loss marked the sixth time this season that Maryland has been blanked in a match.

Three things to know

1. Illinois dominates Maryland’s defense. The Fighting Illini are not known for having an elite defense, but picked apart an established Maryland defense. Illinois is middle of the pack in both kills and hitting percentage, but finished the match with 45 kills and a .327 hitting percentage.

2. Illinois’ outside hitters get it done. Outside hitters Cooney and Terry controlled this game from the first set. These two looked like the best players on the court throughout the entire match, combining for 20 kills, 13 digs, and a .275 hitting percentage.

3. Maryland failed to build off of its last win. Entering Sunday’s matchup, Maryland was riding its five-set win over Northwestern just two days prior. That victory on the road snapped the Terps’ four-game losing streak. It seemed as though Maryland was back on track late in the regular season, but getting swept by Illinois stunted the short-lived momentum.