Following a powerful kill from Maryland volleyball outside hitter Erika Pritchard, pink pom-poms waved throughout the stands in the Xfinity Center Pavilion during the program’s “dig pink” night for breast cancer awareness.
Pritchard’s kill signified the 25th point for the Terps in the fourth frame, sending the match to a final set. And in that last frame, the pink pom-poms continued to wave, as Maryland overcame Michigan State on Saturday to bring home its first Big Ten victory.
“I’m just really happy for the team more than anyone else,” coach Adam Hughes said. “I thought they created the opportunity for themselves by starting on time. They were really good offensively.”
In the first set, the Terps hardly looked like a team that had lost eight sets in a row. They jumped out to a 13-9 lead, prompting Michigan State head coach Cathy George to use a timeout.
Pritchard came out firing, posting six kills in the first set. In Maryland’s Sept. 28 match against the Spartans, she had just nine kills during the Terps’ straight-sets loss.
It was a kill from middle blocker Katie Myers that ended the first set in a Maryland victory, 25-22, capped by a signature stare-down from her after the play.
“We knew we needed to stay steady and calm the whole match,” libero Allegra Rivas said. “If we do that, the match is going to go well.”
The Terps struggled to translate that success into a second set that proved to be streaky for both squads. Michigan State put together three runs of three points or more, including one that put it up 17-12. However, Maryland responded with a 3-0 run of its own.
Middle blocker Rainelle Jones heated up in the frame, compiling four kills after notching just one in the teams’ first meeting. She was helped by her personal fan section that cheered from the corner.
But Maryland couldn’t recover from a series of service errors, and it fell, 25-21, as the Spartans evened things up. The Terps totaled five service errors in the set.
“We needed to limit the service errors but stay aggressive,” Myers said. “We had our fans behind us, and we went for it.”
Errors from coach Adam Hughes’ squad again hurt it early on in set three. Michigan State jumped out to an 8-3 lead, and the Terps couldn’t make up the deficit. They dropped the frame by an 11-point margin, their most lopsided set loss of the season.
It was Michigan State outside hitter Meredith Norris who took over during the third set, and she finished the match with 17 kills — short of her season-high of 21 against Duke.
“We made a big switch with who matched up with Norris in the fourth and fifth set,” Hughes said. “I thought that was one of the biggest differences in the match.”
On the ropes in the fourth set, the Terps were determined to continue battling a Spartans squad that had put up an 11-2 record entering the bout. Maryland controlled the tempo of the set, and Hughes had to use only one timeout to give his players a breather. The Terps subsequently sent the match the distance, winning set four, 25-19.
And in the end, Maryland got revenge for its straight-sets defeat at the hands of Michigan State on Sept. 28 in East Lansing, earning its first Big Ten win in the process.
“Michigan State is one of the established programs in this conference,” Hughes said. “The program’s pretty proud of this win.”