Samantha Schnitta and Anastasia Russ punctuated Maryland volleyball’s set one win over Old Dominion with a tag-team block – an assertive reminder that the program’s identity remains at the front of the net.

The duo’s rejection was the Terps’ sixth of the first set before Maryland’s offense took control and dissected the Monarchs en route to a 3-0 win in the first match of the Kristen Dickmann Invitational on Friday in Annapolis, the Terps’ second consecutive sweep.

Maryland’s blocking hadn’t generated quite as much buzz entering 2023 compared to recent seasons. Before the season, coach Adam Hughes expressed his desire for the Terps to be a more complete team on the defensive end – suggesting a greater emphasis on digs that contrasted the program’s reliance on its signature blocking.

“I love our back row that we have this year,” Russ said. “And we’re doing a great job with digs kind of going around our block, but we still want to make sure we have a solid block, going to help the defense and … continue what we are already good at.”

Hughes’ squad logged eight rejections across the final two frames and sprawled out for 28 digs. Maryland also pieced together its most crisp outing on the attack through four games – 43 kills against just eight errors brewed a season-high .412 hitting percentage.

Friday’s first set, however, was dictated by Maryland’s stinginess at the net.

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Sydney Dowler, Eva Rohrbach and Russ each registered a solo rejection – the latter’s block midway through the frame sparked a 6-1 run that gave the Terps control of the opening set.

Rohrbach and Russ added kills down the stretch to keep the Monarchs’ attack at bay as both sides alternated spikes throughout the frame.

Ultimately, Maryland’s six blocks proved too steep for the Monarchs to overcome as the Terps trotted to a 1-0 lead.

“We worked really hard in practice all week and in preseason to work on our blocking with the addition of new players,” said Russ, who finished with five total blocks. “So it was really exciting to kind of continue that tradition of blocking moving forward.”

The subsequent set unfolded similarly with a Russ rejection giving Maryland the upper hand. This time, the redshirt senior’s third block put the Terps ahead 9-8, and Maryland wouldn’t look back.

Sam Csire, after she lined consecutive aces earlier in the set, scattered four putaways to help the Terps maintain a five-point cushion deep into the frame. Laila Ivey’s fourth kill put Maryland on the doorstep, and Russ powered down her fifth putaway to close the team’s fifth-consecutive set win.

[Eva Rohrbach displayed intelligence, confidence in first three Maryland volleyball games]

“That always brings a lot of energy,” Russ said. “…Stuffing the other team and stopping their momentum.”

From there, the Terps made quick work of a crumbling Old Dominion squad. Csire and Lilly Gunter both notched an ace, Schnitta and Rohrbach provided two quick kills and Maryland sat back as the Monarchs helplessly tried to pick their way through the Terps’ sturdy front line and back row. Old Dominion spewed 19 attack errors throughout the day and hit just .143.

“They play a very unique style … [they’re] probably the fastest team we’ve seen this year,” Hughes said. “That puts some stress on you at times, but I thought everyone did a good job of maintaining their assignments.”

The Monarchs committed four errors amid a string of eight straight Maryland points that sprung the Terps ahead 16-6, allowing Hughes to insert reserves Sydney Bryant and Erin Morrissey, both of whom pitched in a kill as Maryland closed in on the win.

And after two desperation putaways kept Old Dominion alive, Alice Munari’s serve in the face of a bevy of match points went awry, the Monarchs’ final self-inflicted blow amid Maryland’s dominant sweep.