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Maryland volleyball vs. Ohio State preview (part two)

This will be the second meeting between these two teams.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

After defeating Northwestern to even the season series, Maryland volleyball looked to gain momentum and win its second straight match. However, Maryland came up short, losing to Illinois in three sets.

After Illinois gained a 4-1 lead early in the first set, the Terps battled back, but they were unable to erase the deficit, eventually losing the set 25-19. The Fighting Illini dominated the second set from the get-go, taking a 10-4 lead and never letting go, winning the set 25-14. Maryland showed some fight in the third set, but after a 6-1 Illinois run put the Terps down eight, the set was out of reach.

Outside hitters Sam Csire and Paula Neciporuka were a bit inefficient in this one but still supplied the Terps with 20 kills, 17 digs, and two blocks. Middle blocker Cara Lewis got some significant playing time in the defeat, recording two kills on a .500 hitting percentage.

Friday’s opponent, Ohio State, is currently on a six-game winning streak that includes two three-set wins over No. 9 Nebraska and No. 25 Illinois, and a four-set win over No. 15 Penn State.

Maryland’s Friday night match against the Buckeyes will be aired on Big Ten Plus at 7 p.m.

What happened last time

These two teams met for the first time this season on Oct. 4, which was just the fourth game of conference play for the Terps. Maryland was coming off a tough five-set loss to Penn State and was looking to even up its conference record at 2-2.

Ohio State was 1-2 in conference play as well after sweeping Indiana in its previous match.

The Buckeyes set the tone early, jumping to an 8-2 lead in the first set and kept Maryland at a comfortable distance, winning the set 25-21. The second set was a battle through the first half, but after a 5-1 Ohio State run put it up by seven, the Terps could not recover, losing the set 25-18. Ohio State seized another 8-2 lead in the third as the Terps were unable to regain their footing, losing the third and final set, 25-19.

Middle blocker Laila Ricks was one of the few bright spots for the Terps, finishing the match with nine kills, five digs, three blocks, and a .348 hitting percentage. Setter Sydney Dowler had a solid performance as well, totaling 27 assists, eight digs, and four blocks.

What happened since

Following Maryland’s three-set loss to Ohio State, the Terps went on to lose two of their next three before stringing together multiple wins.

The Terps first matched up against Northwestern, in which they barely lost in five sets. Then, they took on Indiana, which resulted in a three-set win, before being swept by Michigan.

Next, Maryland began to find its rhythm, defeating Michigan State in four sets twice and Rutgers in three sets.

Maryland then faced off against Penn State for the second time this season, and fell flat, losing in three sets. They bounced back against Rutgers, however, sweeping them for the second time this season.

The Terps then fell to Purdue, Michigan, Nebraska, and Iowa, only winning two sets in the process.

Maryland snapped its four-game losing streak with a hard-fought five-set win over Northwestern, before losing to Illinois in three sets.

Ohio State continued to showcase its dominance after defeating Maryland, winning its next four matches and only losing one set. After collapsing against Wisconsin and Minnesota in back-to-back matches, the Buckeyes overcame Michigan and Michigan State for the second time this season. Ohio State then suffered another loss to Minnesota before exploding for its current six-game winning streak.

Three things to watch

1. Can Paula Neciporuka flip the script? The outside hitter was a no-go for the Terps’ first matchup against Ohio State, but she will have the opportunity to be the difference-maker in this one. Neciporuka is currently second on the team in kills (303) and service aces (29), and fourth in digs (255) and assists (19).

2. How will the Terps slow down Mac Podraza the Buckeyes offense? Ohio State is arguably the best offensive team in the nation, ranking second in assists per set (13.68), third in kills per set (14.72), and 29th in hitting percentage (.265). The Buckeyes’ elite offense is orchestrated by star setter Mac Podraza who is second in the nation in assists per set (11.81). Although Maryland has proven to be a very good defensive team this season, sitting first in the Big Ten in blocks (3.05), fourth in digs (15.90), and fifth in opponent hitting percentage (.176), they face a tall task with Ohio State on deck.

3. Can Maryland ruin Ohio State’s late-season run? The Buckeyes have been ripping through their competition, taking down three ranked opponents en route to their six-game winning streak. With Ohio State playing its best volleyball of the season, the Terps will need to clean up their mistakes and play flawlessly if they want to come out on top.