Midway through the fourth set, Maryland volleyball’s Rebekah Rath looked to put up her fourth service ace of the contest with a powerful swing from the back row. But as she hit it to the Michigan State side, it was easily corralled.
Then, setter Celia Cullen and outside hitter Sarah Franklin went to work. Cullen lobbed the ball deftly into the air for Franklin, who spiked it to the earth with vigor, past a maze of Terps to extend the Spartans’ advantage.
Franklin, who led Michigan State with 20 kills on the evening, made her presence felt early and often. And Maryland had no response, as Franklin pushed the Spartans past the Terps in four closely contested contests, 3-1 (27-25, 19-25, 25-23, 25-22).
“We didn’t execute in crunch situations, and that’s gonna be the difference in [close sets],” coach Adam Hughes said.
After stumbling out of the gates early in their first contest against Michigan State Friday night, senior Erika Pritchard and Maryland looked determined to set the tone early in Saturday’s matchup.
Pritchard, coming off of an 11-error outing last night, spiked home two quick kills as the Terps raced out to a 5-3 lead early in the first frame.
Their advantage was short-lived, though. The Spartans would go on a 7-0 run, capped off by a thumping Biamba Kabengele spike. With Maryland down 10-5 and the set seemingly getting away from it, Hughes decided to call his first timeout.
Michigan State kept pouring it on in the moments after, eventually opening up a 17-12 lead.
But the Terps responded. Hughes’ squad battled back to tie the set at 17 behind a dominant six-kill frame from Pritchard, and snatched the lead late just points later.
And after a Naya Gros attack error forced a Michigan State timeout, the Terps were just one point away from claiming a set victory against a team who had run them off of their home floor just 24 hours earlier.
But, Maryland couldn’t capitalize.
Two late kills by Franklin dissolved the Terps’ lead and put the Spartans on the ascendency. And after a late Pritchard kill attempt sailed wide, Michigan State had secured another first set win over Hughes’ squad, 27-25.
“[I] really thought we could have stolen that first [set],” Hughes said. “[It] comes down to making a few plays… I thought they made just a few more than we did.”
Despite losing the first frame in dramatic fashion, the Terps quickly put their set defeat past them, quickly jumping out to a 5-1 lead in the second frame.
Pritchard continued to flash her dominance, racking up 10 spikes midway through the second set. And Maryland’s lead would continue to balloon, with a Rath service ace pushing Maryland’s lead to seven — and forcing Michigan State coach Cathy George to burn a timeout of her own.
Thanks to Rath’s serving prowess, however, George’s timeout proved futile. With the Spartans up to 10 service errors through two sets, the Terps never looked back, spiking home a combined 14 kills in the set en route to a dominant 25-19 second set victory.
“I think we had a better mindset today,” setter Nicole Alford said. “Yesterday we were really disappointed not just because we lost, but because of our performance as a team and how our mindset was coming into the match, and I think today we came in more aggressive and more confident.”
With the match knotted up at one set apiece, both Maryland and Michigan State came out swinging in the third frame. Yet, it was the Spartans who drew first blood.
Franklin rattled off back-to-back putaways to give Michigan State a two-point edge early in the frame. And after another spike by Cullen pushed the Spartans’ lead to three, Kabengele converted two straight service aces to force a Maryland timeout.
The Terps soon regained form, however, cutting into the Spartan lead after a barrage of digs by Sam Burgio led to multiple Maryland spikes.
With the Terps down just three points late in the third frame, Burgio looked to chip further into the deficit with a cannoning serve attempt. However, a perfectly placed set by Cullen was blasted back across the court by Franklin, bouncing over Maryland’s bench and into the cardboard cutout crowd for a kill.
Franklin’s putaway proved to be the catalyst for the Spartans, who became too much for the Terps to handle late, taking the third frame 25-23.
And much like the third set, Maryland kept it close in the fourth frame. After a Kabengele service error halved a late two-point Spartan lead to just one, a thunderous block by Rainelle Jones tied the pivotal fourth set at 19.
However, Maryland’s late set woes continued. The Spartans rattled off five of the next seven points, and after a Molly Johnson kill attempt was deflected out of bounds by Pritchard, the Spartans had dropped the Terps to 0-8 on the season.