Maryland volleyball outbattles Princeton in five sets to close Maryland Invite

Outside hitter Rebekah Rath rises for a kill attempt during Maryland volleyball's 3-2 win over Howard on Sept. 2, 2019. (Gabby Baniqued/The Diamondback)

Middle blocker Katie Myers jumped with both arms up before sending Princeton outside hitter Devon Peterkin’s kill attempt back to where it came from, inducing a stone-cold stare out of Myers as she put Maryland volleyball up 11-8 in set five.

After the Terps began their doubleheader Saturday with their third 3-2 loss in five games, it was exactly the intensity the team needed.

Maryland fed off it, rebounding from its loss to George Mason hours earlier to down Princeton in yet another five-set bout to end the Maryland Invite at Xfinity Center Pavilion.

“The team did a good job in a tough spot,” coach Adam Hughes said. “It got a little tight there in the fifth, and they found a way to close it out.”

The Tigers entered the match without dropping a set in either of its previous two contests in the Maryland Invite while the Terps beat Arkansas on Friday before falling to the Patriots on Saturday.

With Princeton looking to continue its streak and Maryland looking to break out of its five-setter slump, it was the Terps who jumped out early. They came out on top in a back-and-forth set, 26-24 — helped by blocks from Myers and middle blocker Rainelle Jones on multiple kill attempts from Princeton outside hitter Elena Montgomery.

Set two was dominated by freshman phenom Rebekah Rath. The outside hitter tallied seven kills in the frame, and her teammates began to feed her more than outside hitter and captain Erika Pritchard.

“Rebekah’s getting more and more comfortable,” Hughes said. “She’s starting to learn what her assignments are, and that’s helping the team in a big way.”

But Rath’s efforts were to no avail. Maryland trailed 23-21 when Hughes called his second timeout of the set and out of the break, the Terps and Princeton split 2-2, giving the Tigers the win, 25-23.

The Terps struggled to find consistency in the third set. However, Pritchard began to heat up, rattling off seven total kills. Princeton prevailed, though, taking the frame, 25-22. A pair of service errors from Pritchard and Myers helped seal Maryland’s defeat in the set.

“We knew we had to get it together,” Rath said. “We didn’t want to go 1-2 in our own gym, so we needed to come together.”

Jones put together two blocks in a row to put the Terps up 17-12 in the fourth, forcing Princeton to take a timeout. Meanwhile, Maryland kept feeding Rath. The freshman broke her previous kill record by tallying her 18th kill of the game — eventually ending with 21 — and Adam Hughes’ squad was victorious, 25-20, to send it to a deciding set.

Coming off a tough five-set loss earlier in the day, the last thing Maryland wanted to do against Princeton was to extend the match to five sets. It would be more of the same. Only this time, the Terps were on the winning end.

In set five, Maryland jumped out to a lead thanks to kills from Rath and Pritchard, who combined for 40 kills in the match. In the end, it was errors from Princeton that gave the Terps the match.

“The fifth set is do or die, and you don’t have time to play catch-up,” Rath said. “We were not letting another one slip away.”

Earlier in the day, a combined 37 kills from Pritchard and Rath wasn’t enough to push Maryland past George Mason, losing three sets by the minimum of six total points.

After losing two five-game matches last weekend at the UTSA Classic, Maryland emphasized poise in tight situations in practice. Unfortunately for the team, not much changed against the Patriots.

The Terps took George Mason down to the wire in the first set, tying it at 26. But a service error from middle blocker Katie Myers and an attack error from Rath gave George Mason the victory.

Three kills each from Rath and Pritchard propelled the Terps to a 25-15 win in the second frame, and after a tight defeat in set three, Maryland defeated the Patriots in lop-sided fashion in set four. Helped by three Rath kills, the team finished the frame on a 10-0 run, and momentum was riding high for them going entering the final frame.

Tied at 12, Maryland and George Mason traded points. But the Patriots ultimately put together two in a row, leaving the Terps with their third five-set loss in five matches.

But the team rebounded, taking down a Princeton squad that took Maryland down in five sets in 2018. This year, the Terps got their revenge.

“It was something we all had in the back of our minds,” Schriner said. “We knew we had to put together a really good match to have success, and I think we did a fairly good job of that.”

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