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Maryland volleyball falls to No. 14 Penn State in five-set thriller

The Terps held a two-set lead, but couldn’t hold on at home.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Down 2-0 in the match, the No. 14 Penn State Nittany Lions were not only on the brink of Maryland upsetting them but sweeping them as well. Only up 11-10 in the third set, Penn State needed to secure a comfortable lead to remain alive, and they did just that.

Senior outside hitter Adanna Rollins delivered a monstrous kill to the Terps, starting a 6-1 run that would eventually win them the set. This run was critical as the Terps pulled the set within two late, which would have won them the match. However, Maryland could not respond to the Nittany Lions’ run as they went on to win the third set as well as the next two to secure the victory.

Maryland has now lost its second straight match, falling to Penn State in five sets (25-19, 27-25, 22-25, 18-25, 9-15).

The Terps now drop to 13-2, while the Nittany Lions improve to 10-3. The loss continues a 21 game losing streak against Penn State, with the Nittany Lions holding a lopsided 28-6 all-time record.

The Terps tried to not let their first defeat of the season linger into this one early on, as outside hitter Sam Csire instantly got the home crowd loud with two emphatic kills, putting the Nittany Lions on their toes.

Outside hitter Paula Neciporuka and middle blocker Rainelle Jones built onto the momentum started by Csire, each contributing with a kill and block to help Maryland take a 6-2 lead.

Down 8-3, Penn State countered Maryland with three straight kills. Neciporuka and middle blocker Hannah Thompson were able to stop this run with two kills of their own. Csire and Jones got back in on the action, finding the holes in the defense with two kills and sparking a 5-0 run, giving Maryland a seven-point advantage.

Penn State yet again strung together three kills, putting the set back within arms reach. The Terps refused to let the Nittany Lions come any closer, immediately responding with a two kill, one service ace run, pushing the lead back seven.

Down 22-14, Penn State made things interesting with a 3-1 run, but after an intense rally, the Terps formed a wall at the service, sending the Nittany Lions scrambling and sending a free ball out of bounds.

Despite a kill and block by the Nittany Lions, Maryland was able to hang on to set one, winning 25-19.

Neciporuka and Csire combined for double-digit kills, while setter Sydney Dowler showed out with 12 assists, three digs, and three blocks in the first set.

Csire got things going early yet again for the Terps, accounting for their first two points. The Nittany Lions were warmed up now, responding to all of Maryland’s points and gaining a 5-4 lead. The Terps combated this with a 3-0 run to take the lead back.

The set then became a back and forth battle with neither team obtaining more than a one-point lead. After an extremely long rally, the Terps forced Penn State into two errors, beating the Nittany Lions.

Then tied at 20 apiece, Neciporuka and middle blocker Laila Ricks came through with two crucial kills to gain a 22-20 lead.

With the set tied at 25, the Terps prevailed as Jones and Ricks sent a Nittany Lion attack right back at them to win 27-25.

The Nittany Lions were reluctant to let the Terps sweep them, jumping to a 4-1 lead. Maryland continued to fight, keeping the same energy that they’ve had all match and never letting Penn State exceed their three-point edge.

Then, the Nittany Lions broke things open again with a 6-1 run, attaining a comfortable 17-11 lead. Down 19-12, the Terps rallied for a 3-0 run, putting pressure on the Nittany Lions.

With their backs against the wall, the Terps erupted for a 4-1, officially putting them back in this set with a 23-21 score. Despite the Terps' best efforts, Penn State took the close set, with a kill from middle blocker Allie Holland.

The fourth set started out extremely competitive as it felt like the game-defining set. Penn State continued to hold the slight advantage, but Maryland was not letting it set away.

Then as the Terps were down by three, Csire and Neciporuka help Maryland rip off a 4-0 run to gain their first lead of the set.

With the set tied at 16, Penn State takes control with a 4-0, putting them within five points of a win. Maryland was unable to stop the Nittany Lion’s momentum, as their 4-0 run turned into a 9-2 run to close out the set.

With the crowd on their feet and red pompoms in hand, the Xfinity Center Pavilion was ecstatic as Penn State served.

Penn State got off to a scorching hot start, winning multiple long rallies and gaining a 6-2 lead. With each team delivering multiple ferocious spikes, it was Penn State who won another long rally to take a 7-3 advantage. Penn State continued to deliver kill after kill to maintain its critical edge.

After an unsuccessful Maryland challenge and questionable officiating, the Terps found a new motivation and the crowd let everyone know how they felt. However, this wasn’t enough to stop the roll that Penn State was on, losing the fifth and final set 15-9.

Three things to know

1. Erika Pritchard did not make her return to College Park. The former Maryland volleyball star transferred to Penn State at the end of last season however, did not play in this matchup. In fact, Pritchard did not even travel with the Nittany Lions. The outside hitter currently has the third-most points on the Penn State roster with 109 points as she’s averaging 3.21 points per set.

2. Neciporuka and Csire continue to lead the Terps offensively. Despite the loss, Neciporuka and Csire showed once again why they are two of the most talented players on this Maryland roster. Both players easily led the team in kills against Penn State as Neciporuka totaled 21 kills, while Csire registered 18. They were positive factors for Maryland’s offense as a whole, and the duo brought their best to the Nittany Lions even though the Terps ended up losing.

3. Maryland failed to capitalize on a big opportunity. The Terps came into this season with fairly low expectations, and after starting off the season 13-1 with a marquee upset win over No. 2 Wisconsin, Maryland had another chance to knock off a talented Big Ten program. Maryland even held a two-set advantage over Penn State at one point, but the Terps ended up losing the next three sets en route to the program’s second loss of the season. Maryland will have another chance to snap its losing streak when it travels to Ohio State on Oct. 2.