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Maryland volleyball downs Rutgers, 3-1, in first Big Ten away match

For the first time since joining the Big Ten, the Terps have a winning record in conference play.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics.

Maryland volleyball traveled to Piscataway, New Jersey Wednesday for its first Big Ten road match of the season against Rutgers.

Up two midway through the fourth set, the Terps went on its first run of the set — a 6-1 burst highlighted by three kills — which forced Rutgers’ to burn its final timeout of the match. Rutgers never overcame the seven-point hole, though, as Maryland took the set and match, 3-1 (25-19, 25-14, 15-25, 25-18).

“You know, once you get a big run like that, it’s hard to get yourself back into it,” head coach Adam Hughes said. “So we do have to put an emphasis on that and it’s more mental than anything else.”

For the first time since joining the Big Ten, the Terps hold a winning record in conference play through the first three games.

The Scarlet Knights recorded 20 attack errors in the match as Maryland stifled many promising opportunities and would-be runs Rutgers created.

Senior pin hitter Samantha Schnitta continued to be a focal point of Maryland’s offense, tying her season-high 16 kills, including five in the deciding fourth set.

“Something that helps is the way that we run our offense and the way that we have really good pin hitters, really good middles,” Schnitta said. “It leaves me over there so the defense of the other teams has to sit and stay and has to be right.”

Rutgers avoided disaster early as one of its best players, senior middle blocker Kristina Grkovic, left the court after colliding with sophomore outside hitter Taylor Humprey. Maryland was unable to capitalize, though, and Grkovic returned soon after with an ace to put the Scarlet Knights up, 8-7.

After a 7-0 Maryland run, Rutgers drew within four points toward the end of the set, but kills from Laila Ivey and freshman middle blocker Eva Rohrbach helped the Terps secure a 25-19 first-set victory.

After drawing early, Maryland unloaded a 8-0 run in the second set.

Rutgers attempted to fight back with a kill from sophomore middle blocker Rikki Williams, but Maryland could not be stopped, ripping off a 5-1 to go up 19-8.

All Rutgers could do was look forward to the next set, as the Terps won convincingly, 25-14.

Looking to avoid the sweep, Rutgers went on a 4-0 run, its longest unanswered run of the match, to gain a 6-3 advantage.

Now in an unfamiliar position, Maryland ran into trouble after back-to-back attempts from Ivey sailed far right.

For every point Maryland scored, Rutgers had an answer, routinely ripping off two or three points to take away any momentum the Terps tried to establish.

Alissa Kinkela, Humphrey and Grkovic combined for 13 kills as Maryland’s defense, which had been outstanding through the first two sets, did not have an answer for the trio in the 25-15 third-set loss.

Both teams fought down the stretch, but Maryland held on in the final set, 25-18, to win the match.

Three Things to Know

1. Historic conference start. With a 2-1 Big Ten record, the Terps achieved their best start to conference play since 2013, Maryland’s last season in the ACC.

2. Scorching Schnitta. Schnitta recorded 16 kills for the second time in the last three games. Despite missing a weekend with an injury, her 91 kills this season still ranks fourth on the team.

3. Defense setting the tone early. Maryland held Rutgers to .088 and .115 hitting percentages in the first two sets, allowing the offense to flourish.