When Maryland volleyball trailed Rutgers, 13-12, midway through a second set the Scarlet Knights had controlled up to that point, outside hitter Liz Twilley rose up to block a Rutgers attack.
The Terps’ bench whipped towels around and celebrated the set-tying play, creating an energy that sparked a comeback win in the second frame that carried throughout the rest of Maryland’s Big Ten opener.
Twilley’s contributions also displayed how the Terps nullified Rutgers’ biggest strength. Entering Wednesday, the Scarlet Knights led the Big Ten in blocks. With clean hitting and a net presence of its own, Maryland swept Rutgers (25-14, 25-18, 25-15), opening its conference slate with a victory.
“We knew coming in that we had to stay aggressive,” Twilley said. “We had to keep swinging and not be afraid of their block.”
The Terps came flying out of the gate, starting the first frame on a 9-1 run. Maryland dominated the set throughout, hitting .355 and winning 25-14. Rutgers, meanwhile, hit just .091 and made seven errors.
Rutgers was outblocked for the first time this year. Maryland narrowly edged the Scarlet Knights, 5-3, as setter Nicole Alford paced the Terps with three rejections and middle blocker Katie Myers added two.
The second frame started poorly for the Terps, with defensive mishits gifting two early service aces to the Scarlet Knights as they built a 5-1 lead. Maryland recovered, though, going on a 6-2 run to tie the game, punctuated with three consecutive service aces from Myers. The Terps finished with seven total aces.
“I think we are a comeback, gritty team,” Myers said. “When we were down like that, I knew the team needed me, so I just had to get it done.”
With the score tied at 13 in the second frame, Maryland took control. A 12-5 run to close the set gave the Terps a firm 2-0 hold on the match.
In the third set, Maryland quickly established an 11-4 lead. But Rutgers closed the gap with a four-point run. Once coach Adam Hughes called a timeout midway through the final frame, the Terps returned to form, taking the set 25-15 to complete the dominant sweep.
Hughes said he saw a level of control in the match that was similar to the Terps’ easy win last weekend against Temple. However, he keeps trying to drill into his team that approach is as important as results.
“We’re trying to keep focus on one play at a time and even when things are going right, sometimes we don’t execute,” Hughes said. “When it’s clicking, it’s still trying to focus on one play at a time so you don’t get caught up in what your lead is.”