Late in the fourth set, Maryland volleyball was down by one point and needed a set win to stay alive against No. 13 Penn State. A seemingly overhit ball from Nittany Lions junior middle blocker Allie Holland was originally counted as a point for the Terps, but Penn State head coach Katie Schumacher-Cawley decided to challenge the play. The call was reversed, giving the away team a 19-17 advantage.
Maryland head coach Adam Hughes had challenged two calls in the previous three sets to try and change his team’s momentum, and both times he failed to flip the call his team’s way. Unfortunately for the Terps, Penn State’s challenge was followed by a run which saw the Nittany Lions take the fourth set and the match.
Even though they didn’t manage to lose a set by more than five points, the Terps struggled early in the third and the fourth, putting them in holes they couldn’t crawl out of as Penn State won, 3-1, to snap Maryland’s three-game conference winning streak.
Hughes talked about his thoughts on his second challenge of the night, which he didn’t win. “We were down 11-4 when I used my second timeout. You know, we were close, I thought it was a bad missed call and that was confirmed by the Big Ten Network. But those things happen, so you know it is what it is,” he said.
Maryland now finds itself with a 12-9 overall record — 3-6 in the Big Ten. Now, the team has a quick turn around taking on Northwestern tomorrow night at 8 p.m..
Holland was the best player in the XFINITY Center Pavilion Friday night, putting up a game-high 13 kills to go along with four service aces and two block assists on a .500 hitting percentage. Kashauna Williams also helped secure the Penn State win, coming from mostly the left side and chipping in with 13 kills of her own.
Hughes admitted that even though Holland was a focus of the team’s gameplay going in, nothing the team implemented seemed to work against the player with the seventh most blocks per set in the conference.
“We knew that going into it that she’s gonna be a problematic person for us ... as coaches we did not find an answer,” Hughes said.
The third and the fourth set saw Maryland’s defense crumble under immense pressure from Penn State up front. The home team was out-killed 32-22 in the final two sets which didn’t allow Maryland to come back late in either of the final two periods.
Errors were the reason that Hughes and his team were able to stay competitive after falling behind in multiple sets during the game. Penn State had 29 errors on the night compared to just 17 from the Terps. The blue and white also had a massive impact with their service aces, putting up double digit aces on the night with 11 compared to just four by Maryland.
The hitting percentage numbers from Maryland in certain sets Friday just weren’t enough to secure a win. In the first set, the Terps were limited to just a .083 hitting percentage compared to a .324 hitting percentage from Penn State. The fourth set showed similar signs, with Penn State having just a .136 hitting percentage and Maryland still not doing better, putting up a .125 hitting percentage.
The first set began with countless back-and-forth points as no team could gain control of the momentum. But, after Penn State’s junior middle blocker Taylor Trammell went down with an injury, the Terps responded with a 4-0 run finished by two service aces in a row from sophomore setter Erin Engel to go up, 12-9.
The exchange of runs continued throughout the first set. The biggest lead either team had was three points until both teams were tied at 21 toward the end. However, Penn State would finish off the first set on top with two kills and two attack errors as Maryland lost its first set in four games 25-22. Junior outside hitter Sam Csire had just two kills in the period as Penn State offensively overpowered Maryland with 17 team kills in the first to take a 1-0 advantage.
After a lackluster first set, Csire started the second set by showing why she has the most kills on the team. Five of Maryland’s first 10 points came from Csire kills, doing a lot of her damage from the left side of the net with powerful spikes as the Terps went up, 10-6.
From that point on in the second set, the Terps began to take command, going on a 10-6 run which featured a massive solo block from junior setter Sydney Dowler and a rare kill from graduate Maddie Naumann to jump out to an eight-point lead at 20-12.
Penn State didn’t count itself out, though, going on a massive 11-3 run to tie the set with just two points left. However, Hughes’ team refused to go two sets down. The Terps finished the set off on a Penn State service error and redshirt junior middle blocker Anastasia Russ crushing a misplaced opponent’s set into the hardwood to take the second set, 25-23, and to tie the match at one.
Sophomore defensive specialist Milan Gomillion detailed what she thought was the turning point in the team’s mentality between the first and the second set.
“We came together, we said ‘Okay, we’re down 0-1. How are we gonna respond?’” she said. “Are we just gonna roll over or are we gonna come back out and really fight hard?”
In a come-from-behind situation after going down early in the third, Maryland continued to put pressure on Penn State as the set continued. Despite going down by eight, Maryland cut the lead down to within two behind a few service aces from Dowler and multiple kills by both Csire and Jones.
Penn State’s lead didn’t diminish, but two kills from freshman outside hitter Laila Ivey had Maryland within three at set point. Still, a kill from Holland secured the set for Penn State, 25-21.
Maryland’s fourth set comeback wasn’t fulfilled, as it lost the set, 25-22, and the match, 3-1. The Terps now have a 2-6 record at home.