After losing two straight home games in a row last weekend, Maryland volleyball seemed to have lost some of the spark it had during the three-game away winning streak the team was previously on. However, the Terps went on the road again on Thursday to Iowa City, Iowa, and managed to turn things around.
The game against the Iowa Hawkeyes was a much-needed win for Maryland, winning 3-1 to extend the away winning streak to four in a row. It wasn’t much of a fight, with the only close set being the fourth, which the Terps won 25-23. Redshirt junior middle blocker Anastasia Russ had a great performance with a team-high 10 kills and a team-high eight blocks against the Hawkeyes. Maryland is now 13-10 on the season and 4-7 in Big Ten play.
With the away winning streak still intact, Maryland will try to extend it Saturday in a rematch against No. 3 Nebraska at 8:30 p.m. on Big Ten Plus.
No. 1 Nebraska (18-2, 10-1 Big Ten)
What happened last time
Maryland was facing an 0-4 conference record when the Cornhuskers came to College Park in early October, and the Pavilion was at a fever pitch. After Maryland got out to an early 7-2 lead in the first set, Nebraska stormed back the rest of the way on a 23-11 run. Nebraska senior middle blocker Madi Kubik putting up three kills and three digs as the away team took the first set, 25-18.
The second set was close the whole time, but Maryland was slipping away towards the end down 24-19 at set point. The Terps didn’t give up, going on a 4-0 run with four straight block assists. But Nebraska took the set 25-23, as Maryland was limited to a .029 hitting percentage in the second.
The third set saw the Terps respond down by two sets, with freshman outside hitter Laila Ivey coming up with four early kills to give her squad an early three point lead. Nebraska remained behind for the whole set, and despite going on a 5-1 run to go within one point of Maryland at 22-21, Maryland responded infront of its home crowd. The Terps went on a 3-0 run with three straight Wisconsin errors to take the set 25-21, with Ivey’s six kills keeping them in the game.
The fourth set saw the Cornhuskers handle business for most of the set, jetting out to a 17-11 lead. Maryland couldn’t overcome the lead until the game was tied at 22 toward the end, but Nebraska responded with a 3-0 run to take the set and the match in the XFINITY Center Pavilion. The fourth set was a great defensive performance by both sides, with Nebraska having a -0.02 hitting percentage and Maryland hitting with a -0.116 hitting percentage.
Nebraska’s sophomore outside hitter Whitney Lauenstein had 11 kills, seven digs, six block assists and four service aces to lead the way for the Cornhuskers. For Maryland, junior outside hitter Sam Csire had 14 kills and 12 digs, Ivey had 12 kills, and Russ had 11 block assists and two kills, taking over in front of the net.
What’s happened since
Until going up against No. 5 Wisconsin on Wednesday, the Cornhuskers hadn’t dropped a single set since they beat Maryland on October 2. Nebraska had been playing like a side in form, dominating six teams in a row, with two of them being ranked opponents in No. 12 Purdue, and No. 11 Penn State.
But after traveling to Madison on Wednesday, the No. 1 team in the country got crushed in a rematch of the 2021 NCAA national championship game, losing in straight sets. The first two sets came down to the wire, but Nebraska wasn’t able to pull them out and lost 25-23 both times. The Cornhuskers lost 25-18 in the third set to give them just their second loss of the season, despite freshman middle blocker Bekka Allick having a career high 13 kills. Even though Nebraska is coming off a loss, expect the team to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
Three things to watch
1. What can Maryland learn from the last game? It’s been almost a month since Maryland lost 3-1 to Nebraska in front of a sold-out crowd at the XFINITY Center Pavilion. After that game, head coach Adam Hughes thought that his team had committed some unnecessary errors that cost his squad the game.
“I think if we played a little bit more disciplined in some crucial moments you know I think we [would] find ourselves going in five,” Hughes said, “I thought realistically we made a few key mistakes at key times.”
It was a tough loss, but Maryland looked promising. If the Terps can clean up some of those missteps maybe they can make it to the fifth set on Saturday.
2. Can Milan Gomillion keep playing at this level? Playing as a defensive specialist, it can sometimes be hard to get noticed on the stat sheet when your teammates are recognized mostly for kills and blocks. However, sophomore defensive specialist Milan Gomillion has been hard to ignore this season. On Wednesday, she had 18 digs against Iowa, marking her 16th straight with double-digit digs. She’s fifth in the Big Ten in total kills with 311 and averages 3.66 digs per set, which is 10th in the Big Ten. If she can keep this up, Gomillion will help solidify a Maryland defense that is primarily known for blocking.
3. Can the Terps take some games from this upcoming stretch? After winning four out of six games, Maryland is about to face the toughest part of its schedule in upcoming weeks. Five out of the Terps’ next six games will be against top 15 teams in the country. The next two games will be against No. 1 Nebraska and a rematch against No. 11 Penn State before playing Iowa again. After, Maryland will play three straight teams currently ranked in the top 10 — No. 9 Minnesota, No. 5 Wisconsin and No. 6 Ohio State. It will be tough to get some results from this Big Ten gauntlet, but let’s see what the Terps can do.