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Maryland volleyball falls to Ohio State in four sets

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The Terps drop their Big Ten opener after blowing a late lead in the fourth and final set.

Courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Down 2-1 in the match, Maryland volleyball was seemingly on its way to forcing a tiebreak, taking a 12-7 lead in the fourth set against Ohio State.

But the Buckeyes immediately embarked on a 6-1 run to tie the set score at 13 points apiece, and down 19-16, another 6-1 would give them a commanding lead late in the fourth set.

The Terps couldn’t overcome the blown lead, taking a four-set loss on their home court Wednesday night.

“I thought they made a few plays. We kind of got out of system and tried to force a few balls that we didn’t need to force,” coach Adam Hughes said. “And next thing you know, it goes pretty quickly.”

Maryland’s struggles to contain the Buckeyes’ momentum were evident from the opening tip. The Terps gave up a 7-0 run to Ohio State to kick things off, and while they kept things tighter throughout the rest of the set, they were in too big of a hole to climb out of.

“I think they gave us a lot of pressure with their serve, especially in the first set when they made that big run,” middle blocker Katie Myers said. “They set the tone for that set alone and we knew we had to throw a punch back, so we tried to do that.”

But such big runs continued to plague Maryland throughout the match. The team gave up four runs of four points or more in the match, which would halt any positive play in its tracks.

Ohio State’s offense relied on an array of player to throw the Terps off their rhythm, with four Buckeyes, including Vanja Bukilic, recording at least nine kills. After the Terps tied the match at one apiece in the second set, Bukilic led an Ohio State 10-1 run to start the third set, recording three kills.

Maryland is known as a good serving team, and that was key to its two wins over Ohio State in 2018. But that wasn’t the case against the Buckeyes this time around, as the Terps had one service ace and eight service errors in the match.

Myers and senior setter Samantha Snyder struggled, as did with freshman outside hitter Rebekah Rath, who has been reliable from the service line so far this season.

“I think we make some errors that we shouldn’t that are unforced and let the other side control what we are doing when we should just focus on us,” Myers said.

Where Maryland struggled serving, it made up for at the net, as the 13th-best blocking team in the nation recorded six blocks in the second set on the way to a 25-17 victory. Myers, the third-best blocker in the country, led the Terps with nine blocks in the match.

Ohio State countered with one of the nation’s best attacks, coming into the match averaging over 14 kills a set, to stop the blocks from deciding the match. All of the Buckeyes’ runs were fueled by big kills, which led to nearly all of its points to shift the tides and take the match in set four.

“We didn’t play very well. We weren’t ready to go out of the gate and that’s my fault,” Hughes said.

Three things to know

  1. Rainelle Jones found her attack stroke. The sophomore came into the match fourth on the team with 66 kills, but second on the team with a .380 hitting percentage. Jones was dominant from both sides of the ball, hitting .533 with nine kills and one attack error, along with six total blocks.
  2. Erika Pritchard wasn’t as effective as usual. The junior standout hit .103 in the match with eight kills and five attack errors. Maryland had to rely on the rest of the attack to pick her up, and they couldn’t against a staunch Ohio State defense.
  3. Elle Sandbothe came alive. The transfer from Kansas State was hitting .162 on the season coming into the match, but found success against the Terps. Sandbothe led the Buckeyes with 14 kills and hit .611 in the match. Late into the third set, the senior middle blocker was leading Ohio State with 14 kills, hitting .611 in the match. She was a perfect 10-for 10 until late into the third set.

“She was mixing and matching and honestly, I think we made things too easy for some of them,” Hughes said. “Some of those kills are balls we have to dig and we aren’t converting them.”