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Maryland volleyball vs. Minnesota (part two)

The Terps’ regular season-finale will come against the Golden Gophers.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

After getting swept by Illinois, Maryland volleyball not only sought a bounce-back win, but one against a highly-talented Ohio State roster. Unfortunately, Maryland couldn’t find its rhythm, losing to Ohio State in three sets yet again yesterday.

Ohio State got up early in the first set and slowly built up its lead, winning 25-19. Maryland seemed much sharper in the second set, even holding a 20-19 lead at one point, but a late 4-0 run by the Buckeyes secured a commanding 2-0 match lead. Maryland held another one-point lead in the third set when Ohio State erupted for a 9-1 run. The Terps were unable to muster up a monumental comeback, losing the third set 25-18 and the match 3-0.

Middle blocker Rainelle Jones was extremely efficient against the Buckeyes, recording six kills, seven blocks, and a .455 hitting percentage.

Maryland’s final opponent, Minnesota, is coming off of a convincing four-set win over Penn State and seems to be hitting a late-season stride.

Maryland’s Saturday night match against the Golden Gophers will be aired on Big Ten Plus at 7 p.m.

What happened last time

The last time these two teams met was back on Sept. 26, only the second match of conference play. Maryland was coming off of a five-set win over No. 2 Wisconsin, its best win in program history. Minnesota also won its first conference game in five sets against Michigan as it looked to spoil the Terps' perfect record.

The first set was relatively close for most of it, with Minnesota holding a slight lead. Then, the Golden Gophers exploded for an 8-1 run to close the set, winning 25-13. Minnesota picked up right where they left off in the next set, jumping out to a 16-4 lead in the second. The Terps were able to piece together a few small runs, but it wasn’t enough, losing the set 25-12.

After two disappointing sets, Maryland went toe-to-toe with the Golden Gophers in the third until another 8-1 put the set out of reach, losing 25-16 to finish off the sweep.

Setter Sydney Dowler had one of her worst performances of the season against Minnesota, finishing the night with 22 assists, 11 digs, zero kills, and a -.375 hitting percentage. Outside hitter Sam Csire was limited in this one as well, totaling 13 digs, four kills, and a -.303 hitting percentage.

What happened since

Maryland’s three-set loss to Minnesota began its four-game losing streak, tied for the longest of the season. The three matches included a five-set loss to Penn State, a three-set loss to Ohio State, and another five-set loss to Northwestern.

The Terps then swept Indiana, before falling to Michigan in three sets.

Maryland finally found its rhythm in the next three matches, defeating Michigan State in four sets twice and sweeping Rutgers, evening its conference record at 5-5.

Next, Maryland faced off against Penn State for the second time this season and fell flat, yet again, losing in three sets this time. They bounced back against Rutgers, however, never losing a set against them all season. The next stretch of games marked Maryland’s second four-game losing streak of the season, falling to Purdue, Michigan, Nebraska, and Iowa, winning two sets in the process.

The Terps snapped their four-game losing streak with a hard-fought five-set win over Northwestern, before getting swept by Illinois.

Following their win over Maryland, the Golden Gophers lost two of their next three before going on a three-game winning streak and only losing one set. After getting picked apart by Penn State in three sets, Minnesota ripped off a six-game winning streak, four of which were against ranked opponents. Minnesota has split its last four games and will look to possibly move up in the national rankings with a win over Maryland.

Three things to know

1. Can Maryland improve offensively? The Terps had a rough outing against Minnesota the last time they met and will need to improve if they want to pull off the upset. Maryland finished the night with 24 kills on a -.096 hitting percentage, while the Golden Gophers tallied 52 digs and 14 blocks. Minnesota has been one of the best digging teams in the Big Ten, ranking second in digs per set with 16.87, and will try to repeat its strong performance this time around.

2. Can the Terps contain Minnesota’s elite offensive duo? The Golden Gophers have one of the best outside hitter-setter duos in the nation with Stephanie Samedy and Melani Shaffmaster. Samedy is currently leading all of the Big Ten in kills per set (4.82) and Shaffmaster is fifth in the Big Ten in assists per set (10.63). Although this is only their second season playing together, their chemistry is unparalleled and they will need to be heavily game-planned against.

3. Can Maryland dust themselves off after two tough losses? The Terps have suffered back-to-back three-set losses with a challenging matchup on deck. Maryland will need to step up its game and come into Saturday night’s match with a fresh mindset if it wants to send its seniors out on a high note.