Momentum can be a fleeting thing for any team to hold onto, and that’s especially been the case for Maryland volleyball in conference games this season. But all of a sudden, this team has won nine straight sets and has a three-game winning streak after the team’s best Big Ten performances of the season.
The Terps started the weekend Friday in Evanston, Illinois, against Northwestern. It may have been tight for a few moments, but the Terps managed to win all three sets to take the win on the road. On Sunday, Maryland faced off against No. 9 Purdue away from home and pulled off the upset in just three sets, beating a top-10 team on the road for the first time since joining the Big Ten.
Now on a three-game away winning streak for the first time in four years, Maryland’s conference record moved up to 3-5, and its overall record improved to 12-8.
Match one: Northwestern
To start the match Friday, Maryland was going point-for-point with the Wildcats in the first set. Both sides couldn’t seem to pull away from each other, and eventually the Terps found themselves down 22-19 toward the end. But they suddenly went on a 6-0 run, with five of those points coming from kills by redshirt junior middle blocker Anastasia Russ and junior outside hitter Sam Csire to wrap up the set, 25-22. Csire was on fire in the first set with six kills, and the team had a .351 hitting percentage to help Maryland go up 1-0.
The Terps took a big early lead in the second, eventually going up 14-7 to start. But the Wildcats clawed back in and forced it to a tied affair toward the end of the set. Yet again, Maryland head coach Adam Hughes’ squad continued to remain unflustered and closed out the set on a 4-1 run, winning 25-22 for the second straight time. Freshman outside hitter Laila Ivey continued her streak of good performances in the second, coming up with a team-high six kills.
After toying with Northwestern in the first two sets, the visiting Terps dominated their opponent to secure the win. They held the Wildcats to a hitting percentage of zero in the third set, and Csire had five kills to help lead the Terps to a 25-16 set win and a 3-0 sweep for the second straight match.
Maryland’s team efficiency was top notch on Friday, hitting with a .294 percentage — its highest in its conference games so far — and having just 11 attack errors, the lowest in a game in conference play so far. Csire and Ivey both had double-digit kills, putting up 16 and 10, respectively. Russ continued to put up great numbers on offense and defense. She recorded six kills on a .545 hitting percentage to go along with seven block assists and two solo blocks.
Match two: No. 9 Purdue
The first set on Sunday saw both sides go up and down trying to grab a lead. Eventually, the set reached a 22-22 tie. Kills from Ivey and Russ, followed by a service ace from junior setter Sydney Dowler, finished a 3-0 run to claim the first set for Maryland, 25-22. Csire was the Terps’ best offensive presence again with five kills in the first; graduate middle blocker Rainelle Jones got some kills as well as blocks with four kills in the set.
Maryland started the second set on fire, going on a 6-0 run within the first 10 points of the game. Despite making somewhat of a small comeback toward the end of the set, the Terps’ early advantage was too much for Purdue to overcome as Maryland won, 25-19. The second-set win was highlighted by five kills from Ivey and four kills from Csire. Maryland outkilled Purdue 16-11 to take a two-set lead.
Later in the third set, the Terps found themselves in a six-point hole, down 21-16. But, not willing to accept a set loss, Maryland stormed back on a 6-0 run with half of the points coming from attack errors. Soon after, it was down again 23-22 but went on a 3-0 run — helped by an Ivey kill — to win one of the program’s biggest matches in years.
Maryland had more kills, aces, blocks, digs and assists than the Boilermakers in a dominant team performance. Both main outside hitters had double-digit kills again for the Terps, as Csire had 12 and Ivey had 10. Sophomore defensive specialist Milan Gomillion had 17 digs, while Dowler balled out with 35 assists, eight digs, four blocks, three kills and a service ace.
Both of the middle blockers had nice days for the Terps. Russ had seven kills, five block assists and a solo block, while Jones had seven kills and five block assists.
Next on the Big Ten schedule, Maryland will come back home for a few matchups at the XFINITY Center Pavilion. On Friday, the Terps will try to beat their second ranked opponent in a row when they take on No. 14 Penn State at 8 p.m. The next day, Maryland will take on Northwestern again.