Maryland volleyball had no answer Friday for Purdue outside hitter Eva Hudson. The reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year racked up 20 kills in both teams’ Big Ten opener.
“I thought she was a beast out of the gate,” Maryland head coach Adam Hughes said of Hudson. “When she’s scoring in different directions you start getting into a game of trying to be spread a little bit and then she kept using that [short kills].”
After going up 2-0, Purdue dropped the third set before opening up the fourth on an 8-0 run. With the Boilermakers firmly in the driver’s seat, Maryland ultimately dropped its first conference match in four sets (20-25, 23-25, 25-17, 25-11).
Maryland never trailed by more than four in the first set until match point, and held its own against its first ranked opponent this season. The Terps’ main weakness from the onset were Hudson’s attacks from the left side.
Hudson single-handedly kept the opening set close early, as she recorded the Boilermakers’ first four kills. She finished the first set with seven and caused problems for the Terps all night.
An emphatic attempt from Maryland’s Laila Ivey snuck into the back right corner for a pinpoint kill that brought the Terps to within one midway through the first set, but that would be as close as the Terps would get for the rest of the set as they dropped it, 25-20.
Hudson’s dominance rolled over into the second set, as she recorded four kills to give Purdue an early lead. Maryland faced problems when giving too much attention to Hudson — who recorded four more kills in the set — though, as top-ranked freshman Chloe Chicoine was right there to keep the offense rolling.
Ivey was a bright spot for Maryland in the second set, as her two kills brought the Terps within two at 17-15. Another big wind-up kill from Ivey, her third of the set, looked to give Maryland some momentum in the home stretch, and after a long volley ended in a Sam Csire kill, Maryland’s fans rose to their feet with the Terps down 21-20.
But Maryland was thwarted by a Raven Colvin block and an error before Colvin delivered the final kill, her third of the set.
Even so, Maryland did not go down without a fight, responding to avoid getting swept to begin conference play.
Ole Miss transfer Samantha Schnitta made herself known to the Big Ten, as her emphatic kill capped off a 3-0 Maryland run in the third. The hero of the third set, she finished with eight kills. Momentum began to swing toward the Terps as they took their biggest lead of the match, 14-6, and back-to-back kills from Schnitta maintained Maryland’s sizable lead, which it held on for the rest of the set.
“There’s no film on me in the Big Ten. Nobody knows my name so let them see what they can do with me and see if they can stop me,” Schnitta said confidently. “I took that aggression out on the court and clearly they had some struggles with it.”
Regrouping after the blow, Purdue jumped out to an 8-0 run to start the fourth set, the most unanswered points Maryland has allowed to start a set all season. It was all Boilermakers from then on, as Maryland never mounted a comeback attempt and fell in the decisive fourth set.
“We couldn’t get in system, they made a few plays and we tried one more time at [8-0] to see if we could stall them,” Hughes said. “For the most part we did, but then it was too little, too late.”
Three things to know
1. The big three. Schnitta, Csire and Ivey combined for 37 kills. At times, Maryland’s offense kept it close, especially in the first and second sets.
2. No aces up its sleeves. Maryland did not record a single service ace in the match despite entering Friday’s contest ranked fifth in the Big Ten with 69. Purdue recorded five, even though it entered sitting third-to-last in the conference in service aces.
3. Purdue’s defense took over. Especially in the fourth set, Purdue’s defense stepped up against Maryland’s high-powered offense. The Boilermakers had four players with more than one block, and Colvin finished with five and a half.