Maryland volleyball took the court against No. 22 Ohio State at the Covelli Center in Columbus on Sunday with an opportunity to secure the program’s best-ever four-game start in Big Ten play and a coveted road victory over a ranked opponent.
But the offense that guided the Terps to two wins in their first three conference games for the first time since joining the Big Ten never appeared. Instead, Maryland’s attack folded miserably in a 3-0 loss to the Buckeyes on Sunday.
“We just laid a big egg,” coach Adam Hughes said. “That’s probably the worst performance I’ve seen us have since I’ve been head coach.”
Maryland hit -0.098, its lowest single-game mark since Hughes took over in 2018. The Terps’ 20 kills against the Buckeyes tied the fewest a Hughes-led team has registered in a match.
Maryland had racked up over 13 kills per set entering Sunday. Nobody among the attack that led it to that mark emerged as a go-to scorer against the Buckeyes.
Eight players attempted an attack. Five finished with more errors than putaways. Anastasia Russ and Laila Ivey led Maryland’s anemic offense with just five kills each.
Hughes said the Terps’ passing struggles often left them out of sync on offense and generated few inspired attacks.
“I thought when we were taking some big swings, we didn’t do a good job of covering our hitters,” Hughes said. “Sometimes when that happens … you start lacking the confidence to take a big swing.”
Maryland couldn’t find the clutch swing it needed to prolong the first set. After rattling off seven of eight points to bring the Buckeyes’ lead to one at 24-23, Samantha Schnitta took one of the Terps’ healthiest hacks of the day. But her spike sailed out of bounds to clinch Ohio State’s two-point win.
Maryland again missed out on a critical kill opportunity in the ensuing frame with the score tied at 21.
First, Schnitta blasted a cross-court spike that Ohio State’s Emily Londot dug out in the back row to extend the rally. The Terps recovered and orchestrated a clean spike opportunity at the center of the net for Russ, but her off-speed tap didn’t fool the Buckeyes’ Rylee Rader and Lauren Murphy. The duo calmly stuffed Russ’ attack and gave Ohio State the lead.
Maryland never pulled closer and lost the set 25-22.
“It wasn’t like we were getting blown out; we were playing poorly,” Hughes said. “So that was the message, like, ‘Hey, get back to playing decent.’ And if we do, we can get into this match. … We were never able to find our legs.”
The two-set deficit was frustrating given the Terps’ stout defensive performance up to that point. Maryland stifled Ohio State, holding it to a 0.068 hitting percentage through the first two frames. Londot, who entered the match with a Big Ten-high 4.37 kills per set, had canceled out her seven putaways with eight attack errors.
But the Terps’ attack woes were even more glaring. They overrode their 18-kill output with 19 attack errors across the first two sets, gifting the Buckeyes six points via service errors during that span — including five in the first set.
Maryland’s offense devolved from erratic to inept in the third set. Reserve outside hitter Erin Morrissey supplied the only two kills in the stretch for the Terps.
Maryland committed 11 more errors in a frame that rapidly morphed into a 25-12 blowout.
The Terps’ listless performance on the attack was inexplicable to Hughes. He was encouraged by Maryland’s practices leading into Sunday and its pregame energy in the locker room.
But his squad rarely looked comfortable on the Buckeyes’ gray court amid the backdrop of 3,800 scarlet-clad Ohio State supporters, by far the largest crowd the Terps have played in front of this season.
“It could have been the factor that we wanted to win so bad we’re playing a little bit too tight,” Hughes said.
Regardless of its root, the coach said he hopes Sunday’s performance remains an outlier as the season enters its second half.
“We haven’t practiced like that. We haven’t played like that,” Hughes said. “I don’t believe that’s who we are.”