Middle blocker Rainelle Jones pumped her first and slapped the Xfinity Center Pavilion floor with both hands before running back toward the Maryland volleyball team’s huddle, amped after combining with outside hitter Liz Twilley for yet another block.
Late in the fifth set against Ohio State on Saturday, Jones and Twilley rose high to stuff middle blocker Madison Smeathers at the net, tying the final frame at 13. The Terps never trailed again, eking out a five-set victory and derailing the Buckeyes’ comeback attempt.
While Maryland hit just .158 in the contest, it stayed afloat thanks to a stout defense. The Terps matched their season high with 12 blocks, and Jones notched a career-high eight rejections, an integral part of the team’s second Big Ten win this season.
“The game’s starting to slow down a little bit for her,” coach Adam Hughes said. “At first, it was pretty crazy and pretty fast. But she’s allowing the people around her to communicate, which makes things easier as well. At first, it was a lot of confusion, and slowly but surely, she’s starting to catch up.”
While Jones went without a block in the first set against the Buckeyes, she became a force for the rest of the contest. The freshman had two blocks in the second set, three in the third, one in the fourth and two in the fifth, capping off her night with the game-tying rejection in the fifth set that helped spur the Terps’ run to victory.
“Ohio State is a team that does some things that are a little bit untraditional offensively, so that was actually a tough matchup for her,” Hughes said. “From our standpoint, we watched her develop during the match, and that was a positive as well.”
After Jones’ points, a section of the crowd sporting white headbands with the Oxon Hill native’s No. 2 on them would erupt.
“It’s all thanks to my mom,” Jones said. “She loves the energy and me being local, so she brings everything she can to the team.”
Jones credited her success to listening to coaches and teammates and drilling home her fundamentals in practice.
“It’s all repetitive, but I feel like I worked hard enough to get to it,” Jones said.
In addition to learning from coaches and teammates, Jones brings her own reminders onto the court with her. She keeps both hands wrapped in white tape, and against the Buckeyes, she wrote “press over” on her hand, a mental note of her fundamentals to keep her blocking positioning.
Jones has been a key part of the Terps’ rotation all season. She is one of seven players to have appeared in all 58 sets the team has played. And with middle blocker Jada Gardner sidelined with an injury, Jones has shouldered even more responsibility.
While Jones’ skill and stats have caught the eyes of her teammates and coaches, they have been equally impressed with her habits off the court and in practice.
“She’s a hard worker,” Twilley said. “She’s always trying to learn.”