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Maryland volleyball falls to No. 8 Purdue in four sets

The Terps fell behind by two sets and couldn’t recover.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Up 20-16 in the second set, Maryland volleyball was riding high on a 5-1 run as it could taste victory. Then, an empathic kill by outside hitter Grace Cleveland gave the Boilermakers life.

Purdue turned this kill into an 8-1 run to take a 24-21 lead, and eventually the set as a whole. Then down 2-0 in the match, the Terps would need to play flawlessly to recover.

Maryland couldn’t recover after dropping the first two sets, falling in four sets to Purdue on Friday night in College Park.

Maryland is now 6-7 in conference play, dipping just below .500, with its X set loss to Purdue (15-25, 23-25, 25-22, 25-27). The Terps fall to an 18-7 overall record, while the Boilermakers improve to 17-5.

The Terps have yet to defeat a ranked opponent since their five-set win over No. 4 Wisconsin on Sept. 24. Maryland will have all of Saturday to rest and prepare for its rematch against Michigan on Sunday at 1 p.m.

Cleveland got the Boilermakers on the board first, but it was the middle blocking trio of Laila Ricks, Rainelle Jones, and Hannah Thompson who helped propel Maryland to a 5-2 lead in the opening set.

Purdue didn’t let the lead last for long, though, exploding for an 8-1 run to gain a four-point lead. After a 3-1 run by the Terps, the Boilermakers found a hole in Maryland’s defense on consecutive plays to bring the lead back to four.

Every time it seemed like Maryland was gaining momentum, Purdue was able to respond with an explosive play to protect its lead.

Then up 16-14, middle blocker Jael Johnson sparked a 7-0 Purdue run with a kill. A service error by the Boilermakers temporarily stopped the bleeding, but Purdue was able to close out the set with a kill then service ace to secure the 25-15 win in the first set.

The Boilermakers committed two more attacking errors and three more service errors but were still able to come away with the double-digit win. Cleveland was red hot to start the second set, recording two blocks and one kill in the 4-0 run.

After falling to a 6-1 deficit, back to back Jones kills started a 6-1 run to completely erase the Boilermakers lead. Purdue did not take this run lightly, erupting for a 5-0 run immediately after.

The Terps yet again countered with a 6-0 run to take the lead. Outside hitters Paula Neciporuka and Sam Csire led this run for Maryland, combining for three service aces, one kill, and one block.

With the set tied at 15, Csire rattled off three kills to help the Terps take a four-point lead, their biggest of the second set. With Maryland sitting at 20, Purdue needed a response and it got just that with a 6-1 run.

Coming out of a Maryland timeout, the Boilermakers got two more to make it a set point. Despite a 2-0 run by the Terps, Purdue was able to hold on to take set two 25-23. Maryland had an impressive five blocks in the second set but was still unable to pull out the win.

The third set started out extremely close with Purdue holding a slight 4-3 lead. Maryland then broke things open with a 4-0 run, with three of the points on the run being kills.

Outside hitter Caitlyn Newton tied things up at nine with two consecutive kills, her ninth and tenth of the night.

With Purdue up 15-14, Maryland pieced together a 4-1 run to take a two-point advantage. After trading 2-0 runs, Purdue ripped off a 3-0 run, putting themselves with four points of victory.

Maryland responded with a 5-1 run to win its first set of the match, 25-22, to shrink its deficit to 2-1 in the match.

The Terps jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the fourth, thanks to three Purdue errors. Cleveland then connected on three straight kills as the Boilermakers gained a 4-3 lead. Down 11-9, two Csire kills helped Maryland earn its first lead since 3-2. Purdue regained the lead with a 5-1 run, now up 18-15 and forcing a Maryland timeout.

Coming out of the timeout, the Terps took over, going on an 8-0 run to energize the home crowd. Purdue was unfazed by the Terps’ sudden momentum swing, tying the set at 23 with a 5-0 run.

With the score then tied at 25, Cleveland came up clutch for the Boilermakers with a block and a set-winning kill to close out the Terps in four sets.

Three things to know

1. Cara Lewis gets significant playing time for the first time since Sept. 18. Middle blocker Cara Lewis started eight games for the Terps early this year and was a key piece to their 13-0 start. However, she has not seen much of the court in conference play as she played more than one set for the first time tonight. Lewis finished the night with one kill and two blocks.

“Cara brings some physicality to the gym,” head coach Adam Hughes said about Lewis. “We’re putting her in a spot where she has to come off the bench and try to perform in tough situations.”

2. Maryland fought back despite trailing 2-0 in the match. Despite Purdue dominating the first set 25-15 and falling to 2-0 in the match, the Terps didn’t give in and continued to fight. Maryland was down 21-20 in the third set as Purdue was on a 3-0 run, but the Terps dusted themselves off and fought to win the third set. The fourth set played out similarly, Purdue was on a 5-0 run to tie the set at 23, but the Terps refused to give up and fought to the very last point.

“We definitely started out slow,” said defensive specialist/libero Kaylee Thomas. “But personally, I’m proud of how we fought.”

3. Neciporuka showed off her diverse skill set. Although the Terps lost this one, Neciporuka contributed in all aspects of the game, helping Maryland make the last three sets close. Neciporuka recorded 11 kills, seven digs, three service aces, and one block en route to the four-set loss.