In the last nonconference tournament of the season, Maryland volleyball finally got over the Saturday slump it had been dealing with to start the year.
To start the Cavalier Classic, Maryland only dropped one set across two matches against Mercer and East Carolina, convincingly beating the Bears, 3-1, and sweeping the Pirates, 3-0. Then, in Saturday’s “Battle for the DMV,” the Terps dominated the Virginia Cavaliers, sweeping them in straight sets to take the crown as the best team at the tournament.
Match one: Mercer
To start the tournament off on Friday, Maryland started the first set with a 17-11 run in which five different players recorded a kill. But, a 9-3 run from the Bears suddenly tied the set at 20 apiece. Three kills and two attack errors were able to keep the Bears from a comeback and win the set for Maryland, 25-22.
An 8-1 run from the Terps to start set two essentially sealed it early. Senior defensive specialist Lexy Finnerty showed out with two service aces for her only offensive contribution on the day. The Terps would go on to win the set, 25-17.
A back-and-forth third set suddenly found both teams tied at 21 toward the end. A 4-1 run featuring two kills from Mercer senior outside hitter Morgan Verheyen got her team to take back a set, 25-22, giving her school a chance.
But the Terps responded in the fourth set with a triumphant finish, going on a 6-0 run in the middle to help put it out of reach. Freshman outside hitter Laila Ivey had a particularly good showing, with seven kills in the set to help Maryland take the match, 3-1. It was the defense that really showed up for Maryland, recording a season-high 18 blocks — half of those coming from graduate middle blocker Rainelle Jones. Jones also moved into second all-time in career blocks in school history (603), passing Stephanie Smith.
Match two: East Carolina
In the team’s second match on Friday, Maryland hit the ground running early on and captured the first set after a brilliant team offensive performance. Junior right side Laila Ricks had five blocks while redshirt junior middle blocker Anastasia Russ chipped in four kills. The Terps had the most kills in any set that match to help them get off to a good start, 25-21.
The second set was always out of balance, being defined by a series of runs. Early on, a 5-0 run by the Terps got them a 13-8 lead, and another 6-4 run and put them up, 19-12. Even though the Pirates fought hard to get back into the set, a few kills by Ricks helped claim the set, 25-21.
The third and final set was another show of dominance for Maryland, getting out to a 14-4 lead early and never looking back. Ricks played her best set of the tournament, getting four service aces in the set along with five kills to help seal the win. Sophomore defensive specialist Milan Gomillion was a beast, putting up 18 digs in the match. The Terps had the most kills in a three-set match since 2017, as they swept East Carolina, 3-0, and remained undefeated in Friday games this season.
Match three: Virginia
On Saturday, in the final match of the tournament, the local rivalry between Maryland and Virginia commenced with a back-and-forth affair that was tied at 11 early on. Later on in the set, Maryland went on a 5-0 run which helped them jump out to a 24-16 advantage. Junior outside hitter Sam Csrie, Ricks, Russ, Jones and Ivey all had two or more kills as the Terps took the first set, 25-19.
After originally facing adversity in the second set, Maryland didn’t give in to the Saturday pressure and managed to stage a comeback. After being tied at 19, the team went on a 6-1 run to claim the set, 25-20. Ricks and Russ helped with the closing run, each getting two kills a piece during the rally for the set. Russ led the squad in kills in the second with four, and junior setter Sydney Dowler had four blocks.
The third set was tight for most of the time, and it ended up with both teams tied at 18 with Maryland looking to complete its second straight sweep. A 7-3 run for the Terps at the end of the set gave the team its first tournament sweep of the season. Csire finished the game with a team high 11 kills, while Ivey and Russ put up 7 kills each.
Csire’s performances over the weekend earned her Cavalier Classic MVP honors, finishing with 35 kills, 25 digs and 7 blocks during the tournament. Dowler and Jones also made the All-Tournament Team, with Dowler putting up 102 assists and 19 blocks and Jones recording 22 blocks and 21 kills.
Coming off their best weekend of the season, the Terps will begin their Big Ten schedule next week. They will travel to Urbana-Champaign to take on No. 25 Illinois on Friday, September 23rd at 9 p.m. to start the second portion of their season.