The Pavilion crowd eagerly awaited an official’s review that was the only thing separating Maryland volleyball from a historic win.
Moments later, the referee stepped away from the monitor and pointed toward the Terps’ bench, a gesture that drew an ear-splitting roar from the enthralled Maryland faithful. The home squad, which had huddled up during the review, threw up its arms in unison.
At last, Maryland had defeated Minnesota.
The review confirmed a Golden Gophers error that sealed the Terps’ five-point victory in the fifth set of Friday’s match in College Park. Maryland topped No. 16 Minnesota, 3-2, for its first-ever win over the Golden Gophers.
The Terps entered the match 0-18 all-time against Minnesota.
“It just feels awesome,” senior outside hitter Sam Csire said. “For us to go in the locker room afterwards and have all of our alums in there and the water going everywhere, it just, it means a lot.”
Csire belted 20 kills for Maryland (13-4, 3-2 Big Ten). Laila Ivey added 13 putaways, while Sydney Dowler tacked on three kills and distributed 38 assists.
“We worked on a lot of new things during practice last week, and I saw them executed so well,” Dowler said. “… I’m just really proud of how much we grew and responded from a tough performance [against Ohio State].”
The fifth set’s key break went to Maryland. An official’s review overturned a Minnesota error to a kill that awarded the Golden Gophers a 5-4 edge, but coach Adam Hughes successfully counter-challenged to flip the lead back to the Terps.
Both squads swapped kills until Minnesota (6-7, 2-3 Big Ten) slipped up in the service game. Zeynep Palabiyik fired too long on her offering to give Maryland a one-point edge that Erin Engel doubled on the ensuing point to put the Terps ahead 8-6.
The teams traded sides of the court, but the momentum stayed with Maryland. Csire added a block that put Maryland up by three, and Lilly Gunter dumped the Terps’ second ace of the set on the next point.
Eva Rohrbach and Laila Ricks’ block pushed Minnesota to the brink before Mckenna Wucherer’s attack sailed out of bounds to seal Maryland’s first ranked win this season. The Terps have defeated a ranked opponent at home three years in a row.
“We continue to do it, I say that in a very confident way,” Hughes said. “… That’s why these guys chose to come here. It’s why I love this school.”
Csire ignited Maryland’s home crowd from the jump with two kills on her first two swings. After a Minnesota attack error, Anastasia Russ tomahawked a Golden Gophers overpass that drew an ear-splitting roar from the packed Pavilion as the Terps grabbed the night’s first four points.
The visitors remained silent from their corner in one of the rowdiest areas of the gym. Maryland’s marching band had a front-row seat to three Minnesota service errors that extended the Terps’ advantage to 9-3.
Maryland seized even more momentum when Jonna Spohn flopped on the hardwood for a scrappy dig that led to Russ’ second kill. Csire matched the Golden Gophers in kills by herself with her seventh putaway of the first set as the Terps marched ahead to a 25-18 win.
Minnesota went ahead 17-14 in the second set after Wucherer nailed back-to-back kills. Csire promptly laced her ninth putaway of the night to trigger a 5-1 Maryland counterpunch that culminated with Russ and Dowler’s echoing tag-team block.
But the Golden Gophers’ front row clamped down late in the frame. Lydia Grote stymied a pair of spikes — getting help on the second from Arica Davis — to help Minnesota break free from a 21-21 tie and scurry to a three-point triumph.
Minnesota’s strong play continued in the third stanza — it seized an early two-point edge on another block and strengthened its grip on the set once Palabiyik skittered a pair of aces past the Terps. Maryland later fell behind 18-10 after committing four errors throughout a five-point Minnesota burst.
But the Terps battled back and drew even at 23 when Laila Ricks pummeled a kill as the Maryland faithful bellowed in approval.
Taylor Landfair, the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year, took over from there. She fed Elise McGhie for a go-ahead putaway before dealing the Terps a fatal blow two points later in a 26-24 slugfest that swung a 2-1 lead over to the visitors.
“The toughest thing for us in that match probably was Game Three,” Hughes said. “We had a huge hole and we chipped away and sometimes that can drain your energy when you get so close and then come up a little bit short.”
Maryland absorbed the pressure and reapplied it from the endline in the fourth frame. Engel energized the Terps with two quick aces amid a 6-0 run before Csire tacked on another as her team built a 16-11 cushion.
Csire rescued her team from a slew of errors that pulled Minnesota back within two — the senior roped two critical kills that helped Maryland fend off the Golden Gophers by four to push the match to a decisive fifth set.
“I said maybe a swear word or two, but my message going into [set] five was, ‘We’re 2-0 in game five [this season] — let’s make it 3-0,’” Hughes said.
A half hour later, the Terps’ coach was drenched — a refreshing reward to the end of a historic drought.