Surrounded by an Xfinity Center Pavilion crowd standing in anticipation, Sam Csire toed the service line with a chance to give Maryland volleyball a commanding lead. The senior outside hitter had already belted five kills past Princeton in the second set when she sent a serve to a Tigers team looking to chip away at a trio of set points stacked in front of them.
Csire’s ball whistled over the net before it sharply dipped and graced the floor for an ace as Princeton’s defenders blankly stared at each other, now on the verge of being swept.
The senior outside hitter added another ace in the third set and paced the Terps with 18 kills — getting her within 23 of 1,000 for her career — as Maryland swept the Tigers 3-0 on Saturday in the second match of the Maryland Tournament in College Park.
“Give Princeton a lot of credit,” coach Adam Hughes said. “I thought they played really low-error. They kept the ball in play, they were very scrappy and they kind of force you to beat them. You have to go win, they’re not gonna let you get it for free.”
Princeton (2-4) racked up 15 kills in the first set and finished with 36 to compensate for 19 errors. The Tigers never trailed by more than six points at any point throughout the match, but the Terps routinely wrested control away from Princeton when the sets approached their apex.
Maryland (6-2) quickly dug in and stymied the Tigers with four blocks before either team notched its 10th point in the first set. Sydney Dowler appeared plenty fresh after dishing out 57 assists throughout the Terps’ five-set win the previous night, swatting three Princeton attacks to complement a kill as Maryland jumped in front early.
Laila Ricks and Anstasia Russ’ tag-team rejection drew a timeout from the Tigers, who retreated to their bench hitting -.300 and trailing 9-7. Lucia Scalamandre chiseled a pair of putaways through the Terps’ sturdy block to help Princeton remain step-for-step with Maryland as the set morphed into a shootout down the stretch.
Csire and Valerie Nutakor traded a pair of late kills — Nutakor’s second staved off the Terps’ first of two set point chances — until Eva Rohrbach leapt from the right pin and clubbed Maryland’s 16th kill of the opening stanza to clinch its 25-23 triumph.
“I’ve used the analogy of when a group goes for a run, when someone paces in the group and moves out ahead, it’s easier to run behind them,” Hughes said. “And I think our strength as a team is that some days it’s gonna be [Csire], some days it’s gonna be [Ricks], some days it’s gonna be [Samantha Schnitta] … I think they’re understanding that that’s fine.”
The Terps dictated most of the scoring early in the second set, getting their points from the hot hands of Csire and Ricks while supplying the Tigers with a cluster of service errors to keep the visitors close.
Maryland stretched its lead to 19-14 when Dowler caught Princeton off-guard with a crafty no-look dump kill before Csire soared from the left pin and belted her 11th spike of the match to halt a four-point Tigers surge. Scalamandre’s sixth putaway wasn’t enough for Princeton, which could only watch as Csire’s ace skipped past them to put the Terps ahead 2-0.
“She was phenomenal,” Hughes said. “And it wasn’t just the kills, too … I thought she made a lot of defensive plays.”
With Maryland ahead 17-14 in the third set, Csire lunged down and pressed her fingers against the court for an unorthodox dig. The move prolonged the rally long enough for Russ and Dowler to extinguish with a booming block. Russ followed up with her fifth kill on the ensuing point, prompting another Tigers timeout as the energetic Maryland crowd began to sense a sweep.
“She has that kind of fire in her,” Csire said of Russ. “And that gets us up a lot. That’s what we need on the court [in] situations where it’s a close game and we need to close it out.”
Csire tacked on two more spikes to quell a Princeton flurry before Russ smacked the Terps’ 48th and final kill of the afternoon to cap Maryland’s dominating victory.