After a thunderous spike off the hand of Cara Lewis gashed Ohio State’s block, Maryland’s bench erupted in elation. It was a much-needed momentum boost for the Terps, who looked to parry an aggressive Buckeye attack at home in College Park.
But on the following point, Ohio State outside hitter Gabby Gonzales responded with her 15th and final kill of the evening to push Friday night’s match firmly out of reach.
Maryland volleyball fought valiantly against the No. 9 Buckeyes in its second-to-last match of the season, but was unable to fend off a pesky Ohio State squad in a three-set loss, 3-0 (25-19, 25-23, 25-18).
“Definitely performed better than we did the last time we played them, but it’s a really good team,” coach Adam Hughes said following the loss. “There’s a reason why they’re one of the top four teams in the conference.”
The Buckeyes entered the matchup with an air of confidence, riding a six-game winning streak including dominant wins over No. 15 Penn State and No. 11 Nebraska.
Ohio State’s scintillating play spilled over into the opening moments of the first set. Back-to-back thunderous putaways at the net garnered coach Jen Flynn Oldenburg’s squad an early four-point edge.
Maryland middle blocker Rainelle Jones helped the Terps climb out of their early hole, rattling off two quick kills of her own to excite a sizable Xfinity Pavilion crowd. Jones helped to momentarily stall the Buckeyes’ early momentum with three first set spikes along with three blocks.
But Ohio State wouldn’t be held in check for long.
Gonzales gouged the Terps’ block with an array of powerful swings, racking up eight kills in the opening frame to quell Jones’ momentum boost. The Buckeyes clocked an efficient .382 hitting percentage en route to a 25-19 first set victory.
“[Gonzales] had eight kills in the first which was crazy, and most of them were just off-speed shots that we weren’t doing a good job picking up,” Hughes said. “She was exploiting a hole in our defense for sure.”
While Ohio State’s commanding offense carried over into the subsequent frame, Hughes’ squad was up to the challenge.
Jones’ impact continued after she linked up with middle blocker Laila Ricks to wall a Gonzales kill attempt for her fourth block of the match. Jones’ dominance at the net, paired with a three-kill contribution from Ricks, helped the Terps roll to a 20-19 advantage late in the second set.
“I feel like we really scouted them well when it comes to the other players,” Jones said. “A lot of us talk really well at the net… it’s super communicative right now.”
However, it was the Buckeyes who strolled to their bench with a two-set lead as the horn sounded.
Outside hitter Jenaisya Moore knotted the set at 20 with a booming kill over multiple Maryland blockers, sparking a 5-1 Ohio State run to give Oldenburg’s squad a handful of set points to work with.
Ricks and outside hitter Sam Csire fought desperately to keep the Terps alive, cutting Maryland’s deficit to one with a kill followed by a service ace.
But after a Rylee Rader spike was punched through the heart of the Terps’ defense on Ohio State’s fourth set point, it was 2-0 Buckeyes.
“Really wanted to get that second one, I thought the crowd could really get into it and sway the confidence of the group a little bit and push us over the edge,” Hughes said.
Hughes’ squad continued to fight in the third and final set of the evening— finishing with nine total blocks— but the Buckeyes wouldn’t be denied. Gonzales and outside hitter Emily Londot combined for 28 kills on the evening, overpowering a Maryland team playing at home for the first time in almost three weeks.
After a Csire swing was blocked by two Ohio State defenders, the Buckeyes rattled off 11 of the final 14 points of the match to clinch the 3-0 victory.
“I feel like our team talked about it in the locker room, washing it, bringing some intent for the serve-and-pass tomorrow,” Jones said.