An already thin Maryland volleyball squad brought out an interesting starting lineup for Saturday’s rematch against Indiana. After a lifeless straight set defeat on Friday, head coach Adam Hughes rolled out his trio of freshmen for the start.
The youngsters did not disappoint as Laila Ricks, Sydney Dowler and Sam Csire all established new career-highs in the 3-1 (25-23, 23-25, 25-17, 25-21) victory, avenging the team’s embarrassing loss Friday night.
“The biggest difference [was] definitely our energy,” Csire said. “Yesterday we were kind of low and we didn’t really look like we wanted it, but today no matter if it was a missed point we fought and cheered, and I think that got everybody’s energy up.”
Ricks was the standout in the first set as she produced an impressive five blocks and three kills on a .429 hitting percentage. Dowler took on a more prominent role Saturday as well, chipping in a team-high 37 assists. And in a phenomenal performance with Jada Gardner out, Csire was the perfect sidekick to Erika Pritchard as she put together a career-high 16 kills.
“[The upperclassmen] are definitely role models. We learn from them on and off the court,” Csire said. “Me and Erika, we talked a lot today about what’s working and what’s not, and I think communication between between each other is what really builds a bond.”
Maryland had 15 service errors in Friday’s straight set defeat, and it picked up right where they left off on Saturday with an opening serve error from Pritchard.
A second serving miscue into the net via Nicole Alford gave Indiana an early 3-2 advantage, but the Terps didn’t let the early complications linger into the middle of the set.
Pritchard was all over the Hoosiers after a silent first set on Friday. As a part of an 8-1 run, the senior captain compiled three kills to go along with a block. Ricks put the finishing touches on the mega-run with a ferocious spike into the waiting hands of Haley Armstrong.
Steve Aird called a timeout to help his Hoosiers regroup against the shorthanded Terps and the home team took advantage of a depleted Terps lineup. Suddenly, the lead that was as large as six for Maryland was erased thanks to an 8-2 run by Indiana, tying the set at 17.
Two big runs from both teams saw the set enter a tug-of-war format similar to yesterday’s first set. Four ties ensued from that point, with back-to-back blocks from Ricks breaking up the score to give the Terps a 23-21 edge late.
An exciting first set in Bloomington ended with the Terps changing their fortunes from the prior matchup, with Ricks coming up clutch once again with a huge block to cement the victory.
Maryland jumped out an 8-4 lead thanks to a pair of kills from Csire as well as four errors to the fault of the Hoosiers, but once again Indiana got into a groove and the back-and-forth began at Wilkinson Hall, with neither team able to hold onto a lead for more than a point.
Maryland fought hard on the serve and receive as the set approached the 20-point mark, but it was the Hoosiers who were able to gain to upper hand, eventually taking the set, 25-23.
A strong start with a four-point lead, yet again, vanished quickly into the third set. Errors kept plaguing the Terps, allowing Indiana to gain with a 5-1 run, aided by three attacking errors from Maryland.
This time around, Maryland didn’t let the errors define the set, however. Ricks fired a punishing kill into the empty back left corner of Indiana’s side to finalize a 7-0 run for the Terps, pushing the lead to six.
Csire kept the pedals moving for the Terps with a pair of kills plus a block assist as Maryland reached the 20-point milestone with a firm lead. The set was punctuated by a block from Ricks and Cara Lewis, giving Maryland the 2-1 advantage.
Indiana offered a little more resistance early in the fourth set, but Csire once again dominated with four kills, reaching 15 in the process, which surpassed her career total.
Fifteen ties came and went as the fourth set progressed, and even when a lead was claimed, it was short lived. It wasn’t until the veterans on Maryland began to reestablish themselves after such a breakthrough game for Hughes’s youngsters.
Jones and Pritchard combined for a block on the left side against Morgan Geddes to produce the first two-point edge by either team since Indiana led 9-7. Pritchard finalized Maryland’s massive bounceback performance with her 17th kill, earning the Terps its second win on the season.
“Obviously we missed our fellow COVID ‘quarantiners,’ but it was a really fun weekend and some people really stepped up so it was really exciting to see that,” Dowler said.
Three things to know
1. No action from Rebekah Rath today. With the Terps already down multiple rotation players, it was a shock to see the sophomore Rath not touch the court despite dressing for the game. Although the offense faired fine without the presence of Rath, it’s an interesting development for a Terps team that has just two wins on the season.
“[Rebekah] is a heck of a player, but if you’re going to to be a good team, especially in the Big Ten, you’re gonna have to have multiple options,” Hughes said.
2. Maryland found its identity again. Yesterday was a putrid showing by the Terps, but one category that was severely lacking was the blocking. Maryland leads the Big Ten conference in blocks per set with an average of 2.68, but on Friday, the Terps could only muster seven. In just the first set on Saturday, Maryland matched its total from the day prior.
Maryland finished the bounceback victory with 16 blocks as the identity of the team was restored. Ricks was the breakout performer at the net, compiling a team-leading nine. Jones accompanied her atop the team leaderboard with eight of her own.
“Our goal yesterday was to stop the two left sides and we weren’t able to do that,” Hughes said. “Good teams can make adjustments before the match and great teams can make the adjustments during the match ... we made a few alterations defensively and were able to follow suit.”
3. Sam Csire seems to have cemented her role. There were question marks as to who would step up and act as Pritchard’s sidekick on the offense, especially this weekend with Jada Gardner out. After playing three sets against Michigan on Feb. 19, Csire was given the opportunity to improve her numbers.
The freshman capitalized on her chances, making a statement against Indiana with a total of 16 kills in Saturday’s matchup on a .444 hitting percentage. It will be interesting to see how coach Hughes deploys Csire as his team works back to full strength, but there’s no denying the potential Csire displayed this weekend.