Following an Erika Pritchard putaway that chipped into a late third-set deficit, Maryland volleyball’s Sydney Dowler looked to garner some momentum for the Terps with a powerful serve attempt.

However, Dowler’s serve floated high over the heads of the Indiana defense, who watched the ball drop past the endline and out of play.

It was an all-too-familiar sequence for Maryland, who committed 15 service errors en route to a 3-0 defeat to Indiana (27-25, 25-22, 25-19).

“We’re definitely a better serving team than that,” coach Adam Hughes said. “I think we’re gonna have to refocus a little bit in the serve and pass and see if we can make some small tweaks.”

After COVID-19 concerns within the program forced the Terps to postpone last week’s bout with Penn State, Maryland came into Friday’s matchup looking to shake off the rust against an Indiana team on a six-game losing skid.

Bolstered by back-to-back kills courtesy of middle blocker Rainelle Jones, the Terps jumped out to an early 16-12 lead, forcing former Maryland coach Steve Aird to take an Indiana timeout to stop the bleeding.

The Terps, who were without the services of libero Sam Burgio as well as middle blocker Jada Gardner due to contact tracing protocols, looked to be rolling past a struggling Indiana team that committed five service errors in the set.

However, Maryland’s early lead wouldn’t hold.

[Maryland volleyball’s stout defense prepares for clash with explosive Penn State offense]

After a flurry of offense by outside hitter Breana Edwards coming out of the timeout, the Hoosiers quickly chipped into Maryland’s advantage. Maryland’s once potent offense staggered midway through the frame, and after an Ashley Zulauf service ace pierced the Terps’ defense, coach Adam Hughes was forced to burn a timeout of his own.

With the match knotted at 23 late in the set, Edwards’ fourth kill of the night gave the Hoosiers the chance to nab the first set. With their backs against the wall, the Terps leaned on freshman Sam Csire, who staved off two set points with a pair of punishing putaways.

“[Csire’s] been doing really well in the last week and a half of practice,” Hughes said. “I think she’s still got a ways to go, but I was happy that she came in and she was pretty good offensively.”

Csire’s late-set heroics weren’t enough to fend off the Hoosiers, though. Two late spikes assisted by setter Brooke Westbeld gave Indiana the first set victory in a back-and-forth first frame, 27-25.

The second set of action mirrored that of the first, with both teams going blow for blow early in the frame. And while it was Maryland who landed the first punch in the first set, it was Edwards and Indiana who struck first in the second.

[Erika Pritchard stepped up for Maryland volleyball in its first win of the season]

Edwards, who notched five of her 10 total spikes in the second set, asserted her dominance with an array of impressive putaways, seemingly finding each hole in Maryland’s defense to give her squad a sizable advantage.

And while the Terps made the set interesting late, with Csire seemingly finding more confidence with each swing, Maryland once again couldn’t pull through late in the set. With the match tied at 21, back-to-back Hoosier kills followed by a service ace pushed the set out of reach, as the Hoosiers took the second frame 25-22 and a convincing 2-0 lead.

Now trailing by two sets to an Indiana team firmly in its rhythm, Hughes’ squad struggled to get itself back on track.

As service errors continued to pile up, Indiana’s lead became too much for Maryland to handle. Edwards and Tommi Stockham imposed their will on the undermanned Terps, combining for 20 kills on the evening as the Hoosiers cruised through the third set. And as Maryland’s final push for a comeback ended with yet another service error, Hughes’ squad dropped the third set 25-19, and the match 3-0.

It was another disappointing result for Maryland, who struggled to make up for Burgio and Gardner’s absence. With another clash with the Hoosiers less than 24 hours away, the Terps will be hoping to fill the crater-sized gaps in their front and backline.

But as Friday’s result proved, that task is easier said than done.

“It really is all going to be about communication,” setter Nicole Alford said. “Trusting in your teammates but also trusting yourself that you have the skills necessary to win games even when things are a little bit crazy.”