Wednesday night’s match against Indiana was about much more than volleyball. It was the beginning of a rivalry thanks to someone who knows both programs well.
Former Maryland head coach Steve Aird returned to College Park for the first time, now at the helm for Indiana. He led the program for four years before abruptly departing for Indiana after the 2017 season.
The Terps were able to get the best of Aird last season, winning in straight sets, but for much of Wednesday’s match, it didn’t look like they would do so again. Maryland lost the first two sets, but stormed back to win three straight and take a 3-2 victory.
“I thought we had a chance to probably win the first and second set and had leads late and kind of let it slip,” Maryland head coach Adam Hughes said. “At the same time, I thought we were doing enough to be in a good position to win a match. We didn’t really panic there. We made a few adjustments and were able to match Indiana’s intensity.”
Aird left shortly after Maryland narrowly missed the 2017 NCAA Tournament, going 18-14 overall and 7-13 in conference play. The program was in the middle of a rebuild with things looking up at the time.
The history and the bad blood were already there, though it didn’t show once Aird entered the Xfinity Center Pavilion, shaking hands with fans and embracing Hughes before the match. With a lighter crowd, when Aird’s name was announced, there wasn’t much negative reaction from the fans.
All that was left was the volleyball, and it didn’t disappoint from the start, quickly ensuing as a back and forth battle between familiar faces.
Indiana (12-8, 1-6 Big Ten) won the first three points of set one before Katie Myers and Samantha Snyder served Maryland (11-8, 3-4 Big Ten) to a 8-1 run, including two straight blocks from Jada Gardner and Rainelle Jones and two kills from Gardner.
Despite Maryland going up 23-18, Indiana went on a 9-2 run to close out the set, fighting off three set points and using five Maryland attack errors and one service error to its advantage.
Indiana hit .023 in the set with 12 attack errors and Maryland hit .057 with nine attack errors, but the last five flipped the outcome of the set as the Terps fell into a 1-0 hole.
The Hoosiers kept momentum going in set two, starting the set out on an early 7-3 run to go up 7-5. Maryland responded, taking a 10-9 lead after a 6-1 run. Indiana continued later on with a 6-1 run to take a 15-11 lead, including two kills from Hayden Huybers, who had four in the set.
After taking a 22-19 lead, Maryland couldn’t close out the set — Indiana closed on a 6-1 run, taking a commanding 2-0 match lead.
The third set didn’t start like the previous two, with the two teams trading points back-and-forth, but Indiana got the ball rolling after Maryland took a 10-8 lead, going on a 5-2 run to take a 12-11 lead. The Terps needed the set win to stay alive in the match and they made their case late, going on an 8-3 run to take a 20-16 lead.
This time, the Terps held the lead late, though Indiana fought off a set point, to salvage the set and stay alive in the match despite hitting .160. Maryland’s 17 kills were the difference-maker.
Maryland kept the ball rolling in set four, jumping out to a 7-2 lead, culminating in a long point where the Terps blocked four straight Indiana attacks, leading to a Jada Gardner kill.
Indiana nearly made a comeback later in the set, but Maryland took a commanding 22-16 lead after a 3-0 run, closing out the set to tie the match at 2-2, the Terps hitting .282 with 15 kills.
The fifth set was close throughout, even more so than the prior four. Maryland edged its way to a 10-8 advantage, but Indiana looked like it could once again come back with a 3-0 run. Unlike the first two sets of the night though, the Terps found a way to finish, closing the match on a 4-0 run to comple the comeback.
“One of our early problems this year was trying to close out sets and close out matches,” Hughes said. “Being down 0-2, I thought it was really nice to get a five-set win at home.”
Myers, Gardner and Rainelle Jones led the Terps in kills. Myers had 21, Gardner had 13, her best of the season, and Jones had 11. Allegra Rivas also had a season-high 32 digs, keeping the Terps in the match by saving several points.
“All week I was practicing staying deep on the outsides for them [Indiana] and practicing where I needed to be for all the hitters,” Rivas said. “I feel like I executed that really well.”
Three things to know
1. Maryland carried over last weekend’s momentum. It took a few sets, but Maryland used its home-court advantage, battling back from a 2-0 deficit to win its third match in four.
2. Katie Myers had a career night. The redshirt sophomore took over the match for the Terps with a career-high 21 kills, five more than her previous high, hitting .366 in the match.
“As soon as I stepped on the court, I felt pretty good,” Myers said. “Nicole and [Sam] Snyder were setting the ball really well. Our defense did a really good job. I think our passing got better as the game went on, so that helped me out a lot.”
3. Maryland moves to 3-4 in Big Ten play, but it doesn’t get any easier. Despite getting the win, the Terps are still below .500 against unranked conference opponents. And now it just gets tougher. From here, Maryland plays three ranked opponents in its next four matches: No. 5 Nebraska, No. 8 Penn State and No. 6 Wisconsin.
“The Big Ten does you no favors in that,” Hughes said. “You have to try to recover and get back to work.”