Maryland volleyball was in the midst of a Saturday evening slugfest on the road against Michigan State.
After dropping the match’s opening frame to the Spartans in decisive fashion, the Terps battled back to a 1-1 draw with a gritty 25-21 second set victory. With neither team refusing to budge early in the Big Ten battle, it seemed like the bout was destined to become a five-set thriller in East Lansing, Michigan.
“I thought [Michigan State] went on some good serving runs in the first, and then we kind of settled down in the second,” coach Adam Hughes said.
But a stunning sequence from outside hitter Sam Csire in the pivotal third set of action proved to be the knockout blow that gave Maryland its first conference road victory of the season.
With the Terps clinging to a one-point advantage midway through the frame, setter Sydney Dowler collected a back row dig from Lexy Finnerty and lobbed a high-arcing set in Csire’s direction. Csire rose and fired, sending a blistering kill off the hands of two Spartan blockers to double Maryland’s advantage.
That was just the onset of Csire’s commanding third-set stretch.
Moments later, Michigan State setter Celia Cullen attempted to fool the Terps with an offspeed tip-kill attempt at the net, only to be walled by Csire for a rare solo stuff. An elated Kaylee Thomas promptly chest-bumped Csire in Maryland’s huddle after the momentum-shifting block.
“I thought [Csire] was just being aggressive,” Hughes said. “She’s doing a lot for us, so I thought it was a great bounce-back performance by her.”
Csire didn’t slow down from there. Following the rejection, three more booming spikes in quick succession from the sophomore helped the Terps further balloon their lead.
Csire’s offensive showcase set the Spartans on their heels for the first time in the contest. What was once a back-and-forth brawl between the squads quickly became a massive Maryland advantage.
“I watched a lot of film, and our team kind of just got together and figured out what went wrong [Friday],” Csire said. “Film today was just a big help for all of us, and we all really took the time to figure out what we needed to do.”
After Csire’s fifth kill of the set careened into the Jenison Field House stands, Maryland’s star outside hitter had willed the Terps to a comfortable six-point lead late in the frame. That advantage only continued to grow after back-to-back Csire service aces on the next two points pushed the set even further out of hand.
Csire’s offensive onslaught propelled her squad to a comfortable 25-16 third set victory, effectively squandering any semblance of Michigan State momentum for the remainder of the contest. The Terps then waltzed to a 25-18 fourth set win to clinch the 3-1 victory on the road, breezing past the lifeless Spartans in the back half of the match.
That victory was spearheaded by Csire’s sizable offensive output in the third and fourth frames. She finished with a team-high 15 kills while also racking up 10 digs, four blocks and two service aces on the evening.
“I think we did very well in our serve-receive. I think we served pretty tough, so that was a big help,” Csire said. “All around, we were just consistent in kills. All [four] sets we kind of just had the same amount of kills … so I think we just were consistent all around, [and] were able to know their tendencies to be able to shut them down.”