Sam Csire wasn’t going to miss twice in a row.
After the senior outside hitter misfired on a match-point opportunity with Maryland volleyball comfortably ahead of Rutgers in the fourth set, Csire reloaded on the ensuing rally.
This time, she connected. Csire’s spike from the left pin ricocheted off of a Scarlet Knights defender and careened out of bounds for her 13th kill of the match to clinch the Terps’ 3-1 win over Rutgers on Wednesday in Piscataway.
“One thing we are talking a lot about is not necessarily that we’re better than somebody or not, but we might be favored in matchups, and to me, that’s growth in the program,” coach Adam Hughes said. “I think the team realized that, ‘Hey, we’re the favorites going into this, and we’re going to have to go get it.’ … I like how they’re responding to that.”
Maryland (12-3, 2-1 Big Ten) sits above .500 in conference play for the first time since it opened the 2021 Big Ten slate with an upset win over then-No. 2 Wisconsin.
Csire’s 13 kills led a trio of Terps with double-digit putaways. Laila Ivey smoked 11 kills and Samantha Schnitta finished Wednesday with a team-high 16, including eight throughout the first two sets as Maryland wasted no time settling into its first Big Ten road match this season.
Schnitta and Anastasia Russ each socked a kill before the duo stymied Bekah Williams’ spike to power a run of five straight points that spelled a Rutgers timeout with the Terps ahead 12-8.
Ivey opened up Maryland’s attack from the left side with back-to-back putaways out of the timeout and gave Hughes’ squad enough of a cushion to trade points with the Scarlet Knights throughout the rest of the frame.
Ivey and Schnitta pelted Rutgers’ block with three kills apiece from the left and right pins, respectively, and Eva Rohrbach’s solo stuff capped a three-point run that inflated the Terps’ lead to 20-14.
Rohrbach tacked on another late putaway for Maryland, which hit an efficient .345 in an opening set it won, 25-19.
Both sides jousted for an edge to begin the second stanza until the Scarlet Knights (8-5, 0-3 Big Ten) quickly unraveled under the strain of an errant attack. After Alissa Kinkela’s kill evened the frame at six, Rutgers shanked three spikes around a pair of Russ stuffs. Schnitta supplied just the Terps’ second putaway amid a flash of eight straight points that flipped a competitive frame into a rout.
“The higher the quality of the opponent, the shorter of windows you get to have those,” Hughes said. “So as we move up the chain … you’re going to have to capitalize on two- or three-point runs versus these long, six- or seven-point runs.”
Schnitta’s ace stretched Maryland’s advantage to 10, and Csire tacked on three late kills that helped the Terps double their lead in an 11-point shellacking of the Scarlet Knights.
Maryland’s chances for a second-straight sweep, however, were wiped away by a Rutgers attack that steadied itself behind backup setter Alyssa Nayar, who dished out 14 assists in the frame in relief of an injured Georgia Lee. The Scarlet Knights clobbered a bevy of kills early to surge ahead before Kinkela whacked her third putaway of the set off of Csire, which drew a Terps timeout with Rutgers ahead 15-8.
Kinkela rapped five putaways and Tina Grkovic supplied four more as the Scarlet Knights shed their early struggles and rattled off 16 kills with only two errors to race past Maryland 25-15.
“After our second set, I feel like we just got a little bit more comfortable,” Schnitta said. “… I feel like we got caught on our heels a little bit.”
But Rutgers could only battle for so long. The Terps muscled out to an 11-9 lead before Schnitta wrapped an ace and a kill around another Csire putaway to fuel a crucial four-point run that tipped the stanza’s first hint of momentum toward Maryland.
Grkovic threatened with three kills amid a 4-1 flurry that kept the Scarlet Knights fighting, but Schnitta and Ivey each added another putaway before Csire’s match-sealing swing.