Entering the fifth and final set against Rutgers, freshman Sydney Bryant made her mark for Maryland volleyball.
Holding a one-point lead late in the deciding set, the Terps went to Bryant — and she delivered. The freshman recorded two straight kills to win Maryland the final match of its 2023 season (16-25, 25-16, 10-25, 25-20, 15-12).
Bryant recorded three of her career-high 18 kills in the fifth set.
“She got some big kills in some big situations and kind of let everyone else kind of get back to ease,” head coach Adam Hughes said of Bryant’s performance. “I thought that tonight proved that she could be an exceptional player moving forward.”
Bryant wasn’t the only freshman to shine on senior night. Eva Rohrbach managed five kills, three digs and four block assists.
“I think the younger players are kind of embracing that they’re going to have to work for it,” Hughes said. “It’s good for the program. It’s also good that they’re getting opportunities.”
Both teams were sound offensively, hitting above .220 with less than 25 attack errors. With more than 45 digs apiece, the match quickly became a matter of which offense could get hotter at the right time.
Sam Csire started off the night for the Terps, opening the match with a quick kill.
Going point-for-point, neither side found their spark with the first-set score knotted at 10. Samantha Schnitta was the first player to separate herself from the pack, recording two kills to put the Terps up by two.
However, Rutgers found its rhythm, helped by a multitude of attack errors from the Terps.
Two aces from Alissa Kinkela put the Terps on the ropes, before consecutive attack errors sealed the set for Rutgers, 25-16.
The second set was also close from the hop. The senior duo of Csire and Laila Ricks recorded back-to-back kills to give Maryland some breathing room at 12-8. But a pair of kills from Tina Grkovic and one from Zora Hardison evened the crucial set at 14-14.
From there, Bryant took over. She recorded consecutive kills within seconds of each other, and finished off another one after a Rutgers timeout.
Bryant tallied five kills in Maryland’s final eight points of the set, which it won, 25-16.
As Bryant was for Maryland in the second set, Kinkela was for Rutgers in the third set. Rutgers got out to an early lead and took advantage of a plethora of Maryland errors.
Behind Kinkela, Rutgers rolled through the set, 25-10.
Needing a win to force a fifth set, Bryant gave the Terps a fast start, but Kinkela matched the freshman with three kills of her own to keep the set close.
Unfortunately for Kinkela, she was the only contributing piece of Rutgers’ offense, as Maryland continued to gel with kills from four different Terps.
Rutgers stayed alive, though, and came back to tie the set at 20 before Maryland eventually pulled away with five straight points.
Led by Bryant, Maryland won the fifth set, 15-12, to secure the victory.
Three things to know
1. The future is bright. In addition to Bryant’s 18-kill performance, all four freshmen played in at least three sets and contributed.
2. Another encouraging season. With the victory, Maryland finished its season with a 17-15 overall record, marking its third consecutive year without a losing record.
3. Hungry for more. Despite Maryland’s success this season, Hughes was not satisfied. “We’ve got a squad that can say being [just] above .500 is not okay,” he said. “I want to raise the bar. I want to raise expectations.”