Sam Csire reached her left arm as far as she could toward a ball falling fast near the left pin, hoping to keep Maryland volleyball’s hopes at an improbable comeback alive in a back-and-forth fifth set.
But Csire’s reach was in vain, as the ball fluttered off her fingertips and landed out of bounds, bringing a disappointing end to a furious Terps comeback attempt in their Big Ten home opener. Despite falling behind 2-0, Maryland volleyball couldn’t overcome its slow start and a litany of errors, falling to Indiana, 3-2, on Sunday afternoon.
“I felt like we never really had that kind of pulse and competitiveness,” coach Adam Hughes said. “It wasn’t there today.”
After a mistake-laden first two sets, the Terps regrouped in the third and fourth, posting a .344 and .462 hitting percentage, respectively, to force a decisive fifth frame behind a deafening crowd backing the Terps in their first home match in almost a month.
The Terps fed off the momentum, racing out to a 6-2 lead in the fifth, forcing an Indiana timeout as the Pavilion began sensing a victory that seemed impossible an hour ago.
Just as it happened against Illinois, though, the Terps came out flat after the timeout, surrendering four Hoosier points in a row as Maryland’s lead evaporated in a flash.
Unfazed, the Terps reclaimed the lead on two more Csire putaways — including a blast that deflected off the Hoosiers’ block and ended up in the netting above the Indiana bench. The teams switched sides with Maryland ahead, 8-6.
The back-and-forth set continued after the Hoosiers corralled the next three points, capped by a vicious Candela Alonso-Corcelles spike that whizzed past a diving Milan Gomillion, leading Hughes to summon his team to the bench suddenly trailing 9-8.
The Hoosiers captured another crucial point out of the timeout, but a thunderous solo block by Anastasia Russ, the Terps’ 13th rejection of the afternoon, evened things at 11.
Both teams jousted for the late lead, with Maryland staving off set points, but it was Csire’s final error that put a nail in the coffin for Maryland’s furious comeback as Indiana escaped College Park following a 17-15 victory in the final set.
In the end, it was Maryland’s season-high 17 service errors coupled with 23 attack errors that doomed the Terps in their near-improbable comeback.
“Very problematic,” said Hughes. “Sometimes those things become streaky…someone makes a mistake and someone follows it because they’re worried about making a mistake…we were very, very high-error from the end line.”
In a closely-contested first set flooded with a litany of errors from each team, it was a Maryland miscue that loomed largest.
Tied at 21, Gomillion misfired from the service line, giving Indiana a serving rotation it would not relinquish. Melisa Iter’s first kill of the day pushed Maryland to match point before the Hoosiers’ fifth ace of the set from Camryn Haworth sent Maryland to the opposite bench trailing 1-0.
And unlike Friday’s match against Illinois, the Terps could not punch back in the second set.
After committing seven errors in the first, Maryland gifted the Hoosiers eight free points during a frustrating second stanza in which the Terps could not grab hold of any momentum.
The most costly stretch came when the Terps squandered three consecutive service opportunities by committing three errors in a row.
Trailing 13-11, Laila Ricks’s attack error gave Indiana a valuable serving opportunity. The Hoosiers gave the ball right back to Maryland when Haworth was long on her serve, but Csire’s misfire on the ensuing point issued Indiana another free point.
A booming kill by Rainelle Jones pulled Maryland within 15-13, only to give the ball right back to Indiana after Csire’s second error from the service line in the set. A kill from Alonso-Corcelles ignited a 9-2 Indiana surge to close out the frame with a 25-16 victory.
“I’m not sure exactly why we started so slow, and I think that’s the big thing,” said Hughes. “We’ve got to find a way to get started and battle like we did in the fifth.”
Down 2-0 for only the second time this season, Maryland’s mistakes persisted throughout the third stanza.
Twelve more Maryland errors kept Indiana competitive, but despite their miscues, the Terps found a glimmer of momentum through their suffocating defense.
With the set knotted at 21, Indiana’s Mady Saris flashed to the left side and crushed an attack in Ricks and Russ’ direction, but the duo sent the ball right back to Saris who tried again, only to be stuffed once more as the Pavilion crowd erupted with its loudest cheer of the day.
The raucous atmosphere intensified after the Terps grabbed the frame’s final three points, punctuated by a Csire and Jones block assist that gave Maryland a vital 26-24 victory.
“I think that the defenders in the back row did a really good job…because they weren’t hitting towards the middle at all, which is usually never the game plan,” Jones said. “They usually hit towards the middle, but I think that our defense and our pins did really well with adjusting and talking to each other about it.”
The Hoosiers continued to wilt in the fourth set, misfiring from all areas of the court to the tune of eight attack errors and five more service errors.
Maryland’s defense continued to buckle down, limiting Indiana to eight kills and a listless .000 hitting percentage as the tide of the match further swayed in the Terps’ favor.
With Maryland leading 23-19, Russ’ fifth kill of the match pushed the Hoosiers to set point, which Dowler capitalized on with the team’s eighth ace of the day, sending a match that once looked all but decided to a fifth frame.
Less than an hour after finding themselves a point away from being swept, the Terps had new life. Hughes’ squad came within inches of victory, just two points away from rewarding the Pavilion crowd with an improbable win.
But six more errors in set five, including Csire’s ill-placed final attempt, proved too much to overcome for the Terps, who fell to 0-2 in conference play on the young season.