Maryland won both of its Saturday games and didn’t lose a single set for the seventh game in a row as it closed out the Maryland Challenge with two wins over Stony Brook and Columbia.
The weekend was led by senior middle blocker Rainelle Jones and sophomore setter Sydney Dowler. Jones was dominant at the net finishing the weekend hitting .302 with 19 kills, and led the team with 24 blocks. Dowler was spectacular per usual with 97 assists, 12 blocks, and 18 digs.
Maryland has improved to a perfect 12-0 record and looks dangerous with Big Ten play on the horizon.
Stony Brook (25-19, 25-23, 25-12)
The Terps were faced with a very solid Stony Brook team that pushed Maryland to dig deep and play their best brand of volleyball throughout.
The tone was set when Maryland found itself in a close game early. The teams were tied at four apiece before Maryland was able to put together a 3-0 run, which was immediately countered by a Seawolves 3-0 run.
Graduate student outside hitter Paula Neciporuka then took it upon herself to give the Terps an advantage, piecing together a solo 3-0 run that consisted of two service aces and one kill.
After trading three consecutive points, the Seawolves were able to pull within two, to which Maryland responded with a 4-1 run to put them up 22-17. Middle blockers Jones and Laila Ricks were able to secure the 25-19 first set win with two empathic kills.
Maryland didn’t hit great in their first set with a .154 hitting percentage, but their +5 margin in the error column was the difference maker.
The second set was an absolute fight from the get go. The Seawolves were up 6-4 early, with nine of the ten total points being kills.
After a 4-0 run by the Terps and a Seawolves timeout, Stony Brook erupted for a 4-0 run of their own to take a two point advantage. The Terps clapped back with a 5-1 run to take back the two point lead.
The Seawolves continued to fight until they were able to rip off a 3-0 run, giving them a 22-21 lead. Down 23-22, Maryland rallied for a 3-0 run to win the set and take a commanding 2-0 match lead.
The third set started close again with Maryland holding a 4-3 lead, but the Terps had different ideas on how this set would go. An early 9-3 run put the Terps up seven, a deficit the Seawolves would never be able to recover from.
Up 14-8, Jones single handedly ripped off a 3-0 run that included two kills and one block. Stony Brook had no answer for the Terps, who closed the final set with a 7-2 run and five kills, three of which belonging to Neciporuka.
Columbia (25-21, 25-18, 25-22)
Dowler and the Terps struck first in this match, but it was Columbia who jumped to a 7-3 lead.
Despite a slew of errors, the Lions were still able to hold onto their early lead, up 13-10. Junior outside hitter Noelle Foster was causing the Terps major problems, scoring five of the Lions first 14 points.
Although being down has been unusual for the Terps this season, they remained poised and relaxed, tying the game at 14. Then down 15-14, Maryland strung together a 3-0 to gain its second lead of the game, highlighted by a Milan Gomillion service ace.
With the score tied at 18 apiece, Neciporuka got in on the action with a kill sparking a crucial 4-0 run, bringing Maryland within three points of a first set victory. The Lions weren’t going to make it that easy, however, immediately responding with a 3-0, making it a 22-21 game.
The Terps were able to take advantage of two devastating errors by the Lions to take a set one 25-21.
The two teams flip flopped in the second set as it was Maryland who jumped to a 6-2 lead, led by outside hitter Sam Csire who raked in two service aces and one kill. The Terps then ripped off a 5-2 run, gaining a five point lead.
After trading blows, the Lions made the game interesting with a 5-1 run, tying the set at 16. The Terps immediately halted this momentum, exploding for a 7-0 run. A multitude of Terps got in on the action, but it was graduate student middle blocker Hannah Thompson who came away with three blocks.
Columbia was in too deep of a hole now, falling to Maryland 25-18 in set two.
The third set didn’t see either team take an early lead with the game tied at five. The game was a stalemate as neither team was able to break things open, when the Lions made an attacking error, so did the Terps, and when the Terps got a kill, so did the Lions.
Down 17-14, Columbia rallied for a 4-0 run sparked by a Lexi Finnerty service error, forcing a Maryland timeout. The Lions had been a thorn in Maryland’s side all match, never letting the Terps run away with a significant lead.
Out of the timeout, the Lions got a quick service ace before Csire and the Terps got rolling. Maryland erupted for a clutch 6-1 run, putting the Terps two points away from a three set victory.
The Terps were able to make their 12-0 nonconference record official thanks to a Columbia service error, securing the set and match for Maryland.
Three things to know
1. Maryland’s strengths on full display. Maryland has absolutely dominated at the net all season long and today was no different. The Terps tallied 22 blocks and held their opponents to a combined .192 hitting percentage in today’s double-header.
2. Can Milan Gomillion do it again? Gomillion is the back-to-back Big Ten Freshman of the Week winner and she has a case for another one. Gomillion put up 48 digs and 7 assists in 9 sets this weekend.
3. Maryland is proving doubters wrong. Maryland was tied for dead last in the Big Ten Volleyball Preseason Poll and this prediction is not aging well. The 12-0 Terps stand atop the Big Ten’s standings and their work isn’t done as they will begin conference play starting Friday night against the unanimously No. 1-ranked Wisconsin Badgers.