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Maryland volleyball’s attack falls short in sweep to Michigan State

The Terps had a .167 hitting percentage.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics.

Maryland volleyball entered its game against Michigan State with just two wins in its last seven matches. On the other hand, the Spartans were coming off of a victory against No. 13 Penn State. The momentum of both teams continued Friday, as Michigan State downed the Terps in straight sets (25-14, 25-18, 25-22).

Even though they still have seven matches left in the regular season, Friday’s loss marked the fifth time in conference play the Terps were swept, equaling their total from last year.

Maryland was able to play cleanly and limit errors for most of the match, an area that has held it back this season. The Terps committed just 15 attack errors to the Spartan’s 22, but its 10 service errors dwarfed Michigan State’s four.

“We didn’t serve very well,” head coach Adam Hughes said. “Some of our better servers didn’t look like they had a ton of confidence … One or two serves would get us out of system and we couldn’t find a way to score out of system.”

The Spartans excelled from the back as they racked up eight service aces, six of those coming in the second set alone. The Spartans entered the contest ranked fourth in the Big Ten in aces.

“We were doing a pretty good job defensively overall, but they were just bleeding us out in that area,” Hughes said.

Maryland started the first set off strong with a 4-1 lead, thanks to back-to-back attack errors from Michigan State junior outside hitter Grace Kelly, but it was downhill from there.

Kills from Spartans freshman middle blocker Zuzanna Kulig and fifth-year middle blocker Amani McArthur gave Michigan State its first lead at 7-6, and it never looked back.

Errors, a persistent problem all season for the Terps, began early in the match. The Terps committed a service error and three attack errors during a 5-0 Spartans run before Maryland’s first timeout of the match.

“Our outsides are a little bit low right now in kills,” Hughes said. “We’re gonna have to find someone to step up into those roles and kind of hit us out of trouble.”

The Terps fared no better out of the timeout, as Michigan State extended its run to 10-1 with two kills from McArthur before a second timeout.

Michigan State easily took the first set, 25-14.

As it had in the first, Maryland jumped out to a strong start in the second set, stretching out to a 5-0 advantage.

Continuing similarities from the first set, the Spartans fought back with a 5-0 run of their own. Junior setter Rachel Muisenga recorded two service aces and freshman outside hitter Karolina Staniszewska recorded two kills in the run as Michigan State drew within one.

Coming out of its first timeout of the set, Maryland began to fall apart. The Spartans surged to an 8-1 run behind three more aces from Staniszewskaz.

Behind powerful serving and a lack of errors, the Spartans took set two, 25-18.

Unlike the first two sets, set three was back-and-forth throughout.

Tied at 13-13, Maryland showed signs of life, but its efforts were too little too late. The Terps relied heavily on Spartan miscues, with 11 of its first 14 points coming off of Spartan errors.

Looking to secure the sweep, Michigan State went on a 4-0 run with all four points coming from either a Maryland error or a bad set. The Terps did threaten late, but two kills from Staniszewska put Michigan State on top, 25-22.

Three things to know

1. Sweeps keep coming. Maryland has been swept five times in Big Ten play, equaling its total from all of last season.

2. A disparity in service play. Michigan State finished with eight aces and found much of its success through the back. The eight aces are the most Maryland has allowed in Big Ten play this season. The Terps, meanwhile, had just four aces.

3. A poor offensive effort. Twenty-six of Maryland’s 54 points came off Spartan errors. Samantha Schnitta was the only Terp to have more than five kills, as they slashed a lowly .167 hitting percentage.