After a barreling Lexy Finnerty serve was tapped weakly back over the net by Rutgers outside hitter Anastasiia Maksimova, Finnerty sprung into action.
Noticing Maksimova’s offspeed swing, Finnerty lunged for the plummeting ball, sending a floating shot back over the net and over the heads of the Rutgers defense — her first career kill in a Maryland uniform.
She was mobbed by her teammates in the huddle, as fellow role player Hailey Rubino congratulated her with a pat on the back as she returned to the service line for the next point.
With the absence of injured middle blocker Jada Gardner looming large in both matches against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, coach Adam Hughes looked to role players Finnerty and Rubino for production — a decision that paid dividends for the shorthanded Terps.
On Wednesday, it was Rubino who provided a spark off the bench.
With the Terps clinging to a two-point lead early in the fourth set during Wednesday’s contest, Hughes motioned to Rubino, who jumped off of the sidelines and into the fray, hoping to force a deciding fifth set in College Park.
And just two points later, Rubino made her presence felt on the Xfinity Center Pavilion floor.
After a Beka Kojadinovic kill attempt was pummeled into Maryland’s back row, Rubino laid out for the spinning shot, deftly redirecting the ball back toward setter Sydney Dowler and spurring an Erika Pritchard putaway just seconds later.
Rubino’s diving play ignited Maryland’s raucous bench with cheers and applause, a reaction that Hughes has gotten used to seeing when Rubino enters the match.
“[Rubino’s] just a phenomenal teammate, so everyone supports her, she goes in and makes a play and you can see the bench go nuts,” Hughes said. “I thought Hailey did a good job giving us a spark.”
And while Maryland was unable to complete their comeback bid in the fourth set, Rubino’s jolt of energy off of the bench was a welcome sight for Hughes and the Terps.
“She deserved that, she earned that, and we’ll probably have to get her some more looks moving forward,” Hughes said.
On Saturday, it was Finnerty’s turn to flash her potential off the bench for Hughes’ squad.
Finnerty, known as a defensive specialist and one of Maryland’s most consistent service threats, made an instant impact from the service line in the first set.
After a Rainelle Jones kill gave the Terps possession of serve in the first set, Hughes subbed Finnerty in for her serving prowess in hopes of retaking the early lead. She responded with three straight powerful serves, which led to a 3-0 run and a momentum shift in Maryland’s favor.
“Hopefully in time we can keep increasing [her] role, because she is executing I think at a high level,” Hughes said.
And though Finnerty’s production was certainly a boost for a struggling team, her presence off the court has been crucial for the Terps this season.
“She’s a great human, she’s a very worldly kid, and you know I think she’s got great respect from the entire locker room,” Hughes said. “She’s our connector, she knows everyone, she’s always positive and always relating with people, so, you know, it’s great that she is playing that role.”
So, though Maryland volleyball finished its final road trip of the season on a four-match losing skid, the Terps flashed their depth. In addition to Finnerty and Rubino’s production against the Scarlet Knights, underclassmen Sam Csire, Sydney Dowler and Laila Ricks have also stepped into larger roles for the team as the season has progressed.
“The depth is awesome,” setter Sydney Dowler said. “I really believe in every single player at all times, and Hailey and Lexy are some of my favorite people, really. I love this whole team so much, and it’s just so awesome to have so much trust in everyone.”