Maryland volleyball was flying high on Friday night after toppling then-No. 16 Minnesota in a five-set thriller to record its first victory over the Golden Gophers in program history.
But the party-like atmosphere that lingered inside the Xfinity Center Pavilion after the win quickly dissipated during the Terps’ showdown against Indiana on Saturday. Less than 24 hours after its historic victory, Maryland trudged off its home court following a straight-set loss to the Hoosiers in College Park.
The defeat prolonged the Terps’ seesaw start to league play — Maryland has gone 1-1 in each of the first three weeks of the Big Ten season. But continuing to split wins and losses throughout the 20-game conference slate would leave the Terps at 10-10, which would be their best-ever Big Ten finish.
History also suggests a .500 conference record could ensure Maryland a spot in the NCAA tournament, a destination coach Adam Hughes has pursued since taking over in 2018. The Terps last made the tournament in 2005.
“If you can keep getting splits and get to that 10-win mark, you’re kind of at a place where you feel really confident,” Hughes said.
Oscillating between wins and losses in the power-packed Big Ten gauntlet has historically paid dividends. Since 2018, a Big Ten team with at least 10 wins in league play has made the NCAA tournament 33 of 34 times.
And although Maryland squandered a chance to improve to two games above .500 in league play for the first time as a member of the conference, Hughes wasn’t critical of his team’s performance against the Hoosiers. Indiana entered Saturday’s match 12-6 and traded blows the night before with No. 14 Penn State before falling in five sets.
“If they had beaten Penn State [Friday], everyone would have been talking about this being a huge matchup between two teams who are climbing the ladder,” Hughes said.
The Terps played to their season average in kills on Saturday even as leading scorer Sam Csire spent most of the match on the bench. The senior outside hitter laced 20 putaways against Minnesota but logged zero against the Hoosiers after Hughes said he pulled her in the first set for struggling in serve receive.
Maryland also hovered near its averages in blocks and aces. It racked up 56 digs in just three frames, well above its average of 12.1 per set. Hughes said that the Terps committed one error for every 2.6 points, nearly their exact same ratio as the Minnesota game.
“Minnesota was giving us some points, and we were probably a little cleaner in serve and pass,” Hughes said. “Indiana was on fire in a lot of ways. I thought they played really, really clean.”
The Hoosiers gifted Maryland just six points via error and out-aced the Terps 8-3. Hughes added that Indiana’s aggressive serving made it challenging for Maryland to find its rhythm on offense, particularly getting the ball to its middle blockers.
Anastasia Russ and Eva Rohrbach recorded kills as efficiently as the Hoosiers’ middle blockers did, but the Terps’ duo combined for six fewer putaways on 14 fewer attacks.
“We probably have to get back to work just getting some confidence back in serve receive,” Hughes said. “I’m not worried about that on offense.”
The loss marked Maryland’s second sweep in six days, but Hughes said his team was far more competitive in Saturday’s defeat than it was during its 3-0 loss at then-No. 22 Ohio State on Oct. 1.
The Terps ultimately strung together two solid performances this weekend and were only rewarded once — a testament to the parity within a power-packed conference that sent six teams to last season’s NCAA tournament.
With a bevy of road matches on tap for the rest of October, including a test at No. 1 Wisconsin on Sunday, Maryland will be just fine stacking up two-game splits during its quest for a postseason berth.