Sydney Dowler located Laila Ricks’ dig at midcourt, popping up a high-arcing lob in Paula Neciporuka’s direction.
Neciporuka met the ball at its summit, pounding a kill off the hands of two Rutgers blockers before jogging back to Maryland’s huddle to celebrate with her squad.
It was one of 40 kills to just four attack errors for Maryland volleyball, which efficiently dissected the Rutgers Scarlet Knights on the road en route to a 3-0 victory on Sunday afternoon.
“I thought it was a good team win,” coach Adam Hughes said. “I thought we did really well in the serve-and-pass and caused them some problems from the endline, and then I thought we also handled the ball pretty well.”
Rutgers came out at a blistering pace to open the first set, desperate to snap its 12-game losing skid at home in Piscataway, New Jersey.
Spurred by four quick kills from star outside hitter Beka Kojadinovic, the Scarlet Knights shot out to an early five point advantage. The Terps, fresh off of a three-set defeat to Penn State on Friday, struggled to find their rhythm in the opening moments of the match.
But Maryland quickly found its footing.
[Maryland volleyball swept by Penn State, 3-0, winning streak ends]
Outside hitters Neciporuka and Sam Csire began dissecting Rutgers’ block midway through the frame, combining for 11 first set kills to help dig the Terps out of their first set hole.
After cutting the Scarlet Knights’ once-sizable advantage to just one, a punishing putaway by Laila Ricks kickstarted a 7-0 Maryland run to flip the opening set on its head. The Terps clocked an efficient .386 hitting percentage in a 25-19 first set victory, overcoming an early Rutgers surge to take a one-set advantage.
The subsequent frame was a game of runs by both squads, as the Terps and Scarlet Knights traded blows throughout the second set.
Maryland landed the first punch, racing out to a 10-4 advantage behind an offensive flurry from Neciporuka and middle blocker Rainelle Jones. Rutgers quickly responded, as two quick Anastasiia Maksimova spikes helped the Scarlet Knights rebound following a sluggish start.
While Rutgers showed fight in the second frame, it wasn’t enough to overcome an extremely efficient Maryland attack.
[After three straight wins, Maryland volleyball gets another stab at Penn State]
Hughes’ squad, which struggled with consistency against Penn State just days ago, hit at a .409 clip in the second set to gash the Scarlet Knights’ defense. Neciporuka, who led the way for the Terps with 12 total kills, pitched in three spikes in the second set to put Rutgers on its heels.
“She’s crafty like that,” Hughes said of Neciporuka’s offensive prowess. “She’s really hard to play defense against because you don’t really know where she’s going, and she was scoring crosscourt, she was scoring high hands, and you could just tell she was very confident today.”
Now firmly in rhythm, Maryland rattled off the final four points of the set to take a 25-15 second frame victory. Hughes’ squad committed just one attack error in the set, finding its groove en route to a two-set advantage.
And with an offense firing on all cylinders and a touted defense as stifling as ever, the Terps rolled to close out their 18th win of the season.
Neciporuka got the ball moving early in the third for Maryland, blasting two early kills to set the tempo for the frame.
The Scarlet Knights, who looked defeated following two efficient Maryland set victories, were unable to quell the Terps’ offense in a decisive 25-12 third set win. With the victory, Maryland moved to 18-6 on the year with a 20-win season now firmly on the horizon.
“I feel like we definitely battled compared to the last game versus Rutgers,” Jones said. “Even though we had a loss against Penn State, I feel like that didn’t let us down for the next match.”