After a late Beka Kojadinovic kill attempt was batted to the floor by Sam Csire and Rainelle Jones, Maryland volleyball’s bench erupted in elation.
Hannah Thompson pumped her fist above her ahead and Kaylee Thomas and Cara Lewis connected for a chest bump to celebrate the stifling block assist.
The Terps were all smiles on Wednesday evening, as coach Adam Hughes’ squad rolled to a dazzling 3-0 victory over Rutgers in College Park (25-23, 25-22, 25-20).
“One thing that I [know] is that we’re playing better at home,” Hughes said. “I think we’re 9-2 in the Pavilion with two five-set losses, and so that is a key thing I want this to be a tough place to play.”
Maryland entered the contest on a high note following a 3-1 defeat of Michigan State on Saturday. And Hughes’ squad looked to apply pressure early on a reeling Rutgers squad in the midst of a nine-game losing streak.
While Maryland pushed the pace to open the game, registering back-to-back tip kills to earn an early advantage, it was the Scarlet Knights that shot themselves in the foot in the opening.
[Sam Csire’s third-set hot streak propelled Maryland volleyball to win over Michigan State]
After battling back from a four-point deficit to put the Terps on their heels late in the set, Kojadinovic attempted to knot the frame at 21 with a powerful serve attempt. Her overhead spike sailed well long, gifting Maryland a late two-point advantage.
It was one of seven Rutgers service errors in the first set, which quelled any semblance of early momentum for the team.
The Terps, who hit just a .118 hitting percentage in the opening set, escaped with a 25-23 victory to take a 1-0 lead in their Big Ten battle.
The Scarlet Knights quickly woke from their early-set slumber in the subsequent frame, racing out to a 17-10 advantage behind a cluster of spikes from Kamila Cieslik. Maryland, which had yet to find its rhythm despite winning the first set, were caught off guard by Rutgers’ sudden energy shift.
But despite a sizable second-set hole, the Terps wouldn’t be denied.
Outside hitters Csire and Paula Neciporuka came to life to snap Maryland out of its stupor, locating the holes in Rutgers’ block to eradicate its once-colossal advantage.
[Maryland volleyball tops Michigan State for first Big Ten win on the road, 3-1]
Csire clocked 10 kills in the whirlwind comeback effort, locating a multitude of Sydney Dowler lobs to will the Terps back into the set.
“Our defense told me to swing away,” Csire said. “They got me behind me if I get blocked, so I just was really confident, [which] I think is kind of the key for me.”
Now firmly in its rhythm, Maryland’s offense rattled off seven straight points to flip the set on its head. Rutgers’ push screeched to a halt as Csire’s 14th kill of the match clinched a come-from-behind 25-22 victory to give the Terps a two-set advantage.
“Some good resiliency there in that second set and it [saved] the match,” Hughes said.
The Scarlet Knights continued to battle in the third frame, at one point garnering a three-point advantage over Maryland. But, kills from Dowler and Csire helped give the Terps score five unanswered points.
Csire, who finished with a match-high 20 kills in just three sets, carried Maryland to the finish line in a 25-20 third set victory.
And as Rutgers’ last-gasp kill attempt sailed wide on match point, the Terps strolled off of the Xfinity Pavilion floor winners of consecutive conference matchups for the first time this season to reinsert themselves as a dangerous team in the loaded Big Ten.