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Maryland volleyball falls in straight sets to No. 5 Nebraska

The Cornhuskers’ reputation preceded them, as they bullied the Terps from start to finish.

Maryland volleyball team huddle 2019 Sarah Sopher / Testudo Times

Maryland volleyball entered the Xfinity Center Pavilion on Saturday night for a highly-anticipated matchup against No. 5 Nebraska, hoping to pull out a home upset.

But the Cornhuskers held true to their reputation as a national powerhouse, sweeping the Terps in straight sets: 19-15, 16-25, 25-13.

The Terps were entering the night two-match winning streak coming into Saturday, winning three of four matches in conference play. But that would easily be broken by the Cornhuskers.

Maryland (11-9, 3-5 Big Ten) did its best to keep the score close in the first, but Nebraska (15-2, 7-1) was too much for it to handle, starting the separation with a 5-0 run to take a 10-6 lead early.

The Terps closed the gap to 13-12, the closest they would get for the rest of the set as the Huskers went on a 7-1 run to take a 24-16 lead. Maryland fought off three set points, but Nebraska took the first set, hitting .361 with 16 kills.

“Little disappointed in the first set,” head coach Adam Hughes said. “We had kind of an opportunity to make things interesting and we were trying to get the crowd involved, but we didn’t do a good job from the enplane.”

Despite Maryland hitting .294 in the set, it just wasn’t enough as Nebraska was putting on a clinic on both sides of the ball. It didn’t help that the Terps had two service errors to start the set, five in total.

“Getting the ball on the other side of the net, in the court, is our focus,” sophomore middle blocker Rainelle Jones said. “That’s always our focus and our specialty when we’re working in practice. We just need to work on it even more.”

In the second, Maryland took an early 4-3 lead before Nebraska answered back with an 8-2 run. Unlike the Penn State match, where the Terps were clicking on all cylinders from the start, Nebraska took momentum early.

The Terps couldn’t keep up with Nebraska’s energy and aggressive hitting as the Huskers extended the lead to 21-14, a mountain too high to climb Maryland struggled on offense in the set as Nebraska’s defense, one of the best in the Big Ten, limited the Terps to seven kills in the set and a .031 hitting percentage while the Huskers hit .258 with 13 kills.

While Maryland was in the first two sets for a time, Nebraska got ahead big early, taking a 6-1 lead in set three. Maryland’s offense fell back to earth in sets two and three, allowing the Huskers to create space and let their offense take over.

A 5-1 run put Nebraska up 18-9 as the Terps continued to get sloppy as the match wore on. In the third, Maryland looked worn out and tired as the Huskers stretched out the lead to 21-11, hitting .400 in the set with 13 kills.

“If you don’t get enough pressure on them offensively, it turns them into a really good team,” Hughes said. “If we don’t handle the ball well, it’s problematic.”

Three things to know

1. Katie Myers was silenced by Nebraska’s defense. Myers has been one of the most efficient hitters in the Big Ten and on Saturday, she was limited on offense despite hitting hitting .357, finishing the match with six kills.

2. Maryland’s service game struggled. It was a rough night from the service line as the Terps did themselves no favors with nine service errors and two service aces. Even against a sound Nebraska team, Maryland couldn’t serve itself into sets.

3. The crowd was electric. From the first set, the crowd was packed and very loud, but Maryland had a tough road to climb with a large Nebraska contingency present. The Terps welcomed a record crowd of 2,225 to the Pavilion, but their play didn’t live up to the crowd’s energy.