Sam Csire didn’t need a perfectly placed feed to make Michigan State’s defense pay.
After an attack from the Spartans was popped high into the air by defensive specialist Lexy Finnerty, Csire leapt into the air and twisted — launching a deftly placed crosscourt kill past Michigan State’s defense —sending a raucous Xfinity Pavilion crowd into a frenzy.
It was one of 19 kills for Maryland volleyball’s star outside hitter, who paved the way for a 3-1 win over Michigan State for the team’s third consecutive victory.
“This year [Csire’s] got a lot more composure,” coach Adam Hughes said following his star sophomore’s dominant performance. “She’s really stepped up for us this week, and been a big reason why we’ve been able to get two wins.”
The Terps had the Pavilion rocking early, as two quick Csire kills set the sizable crowd ablaze.
Csire, who gashed the Spartans with 15 kills last week in East Lansing, led an aggressive offensive charge for Hughes’ squad in the first set.
Maryland clocked an efficient .306 hitting percentage in the opening frame, feeding off of the crowd’s palpable energy to take control of the Big Ten battle.
And while Michigan State’s star outside hitter Sarah Franklin pitched in three kills to keep the set competitive, it wasn’t enough to quell a six-kill outburst from Csire.
The Terps rolled to a comfortable 25-20 opening set victory, putting the visiting Spartans in an early hole in College Park.
It was a deficit that Michigan State would fight tooth-and-nail to claw out of in the subsequent frame.
The Spartans raced out to a 4-0 advantage to open the second set, rejecting three straight Rainelle Jones kill attempts to slow Maryland’s first frame momentum.
Michigan State’s defensive duo of Franklin and Emma Monks gave the Terps fits early in the second, forming a brick wall to briefly stifle a once-potent Maryland offense.
But Csire and the Terps wouldn’t stay down for long.
After a Paula Neciporuka attack error stretched the Spartan lead to five, Hughes called a timeout to talk things over with his squad. Following the break, four Csire kills in a 15-point window helped vanquish Michigan State’s advantage.
A booming Hannah Thompson spike followed immediately by a Maryland block assist rejuvenated a once-muffled Maryland crowd and it was coach Cathy George and the Spartans that needed a timeout to stop the bleeding.
The Terps kept their foot on the gas, as Csire’s sixth and final kill of the second set gave Maryland a bevy of set points.
Setter Sydney Dowler finished the job for Hughes’ squad, looping a serve through the heart of Michigan State’s defense for a service ace to clinch a 25-20 second set victory.
Following two dominant set victories, everything appeared to be going in the Terps’ favor heading into the third.
Five Maryland kills within the first seven points of the third set tore apart Michigan State’s block to open the frame, as the Spartans continued backpedaling.
But despite being down five match points in the third set, Michigan State wouldn’t go down without a fight. A spiraling Franklin kill on Maryland’s first match point was followed by back-to-back service aces from Bianca Kabengele.
And after a Franklin service ace gave the Spartans a set point of its own, a Neciporuka attack error clinched a miraculous 28-26 third set win for Michigan State.
“We let the third one get away,” Hughes said. “They had two servers that got really hot on the endline, and if that happens at this level you can get yourself back into the match quickly.”
A match which was evidently over suddenly gained new life as the Terps were thrust back into a competitive fourth set after being in cruise control for the majority of the third.
But Maryland dug deep to close out the contest.
After trading blows throughout the fourth frame, Dowler converted on a multitude of crafty kills to help stave off a furious Spartans comeback effort.
With just two points standing in the way of a victory, Neciporuka’s eighth spike gifted the Terps multiple match points.
And, courtesy of a Kaylee Thomas service ace, Maryland’s match point would not be blown in the fourth and the Terps would come out on top.
“We had a chance to close out that third set and we didn’t, but we came back and we battled in the fourth,” Csire said. “And that’s something you can learn from.”
Saturday’s win marked Maryland’s third straight conference victory, with the Terps having found their mid-season stride.