Jonna Spohn’s line-drive serve clipped the top of the net before skittering over for an ace on the match’s opening point. The fortuitous roll foreshadowed Maryland volleyball’s dazzling display from the service line that propelled coach Adam Hughes’ squad to a much-needed win.
The Terps landed five aces in the first set and overwhelmed Iowa from behind the endline throughout their 3-1 win over the Hawkeyes on Saturday in College Park.
Maryland’s 11 aces tied its season-high and helped the Terps snap their season-long four-game losing streak.
“That was a big thing for us,” Hughes said of his team’s fast start behind the service line. “I don’t think [Iowa] had a great passing day, but we were able to get them a little bit more out of system.”
Lilly Gunter followed Spohn’s lucky roll with three aces amid a serving run that propelled Maryland (14-8, 4-6 Big Ten) ahead, 6-1, and forced a quick Iowa (8-14, 0-10 Big Ten) timeout.
“I was trying to make the ball move a little bit more this game,” said Gunter, whose four aces led the Terps. “I wasn’t trying to put too much pace on it.”
Back-to-back blocks by Laila Ivey and Eva Rohrbach buoyed Maryland’s advantage as the Terps’ offense trudged through the frame’s first half. Sam Csire struggled considerably from the left side early on — Maryland’s leading scorer misfired on two attacks and let Bailey Ortega’s serve clock her in the shoulder along the sideline to tie the opening set at 12.
The Terps’ attack loosened up after Spohn sprinkled in Maryland’s final ace of the opening frame to boost the home squad ahead by four. Csire notched two kills to complement a trio of terminations from Samantha Schnitta as the Terps rode their collective hot hand to pull away.
Maryland racked up seven of their final eight points via kills and laid off an errant Hawkeyes serve to give the Terps a one-set advantage.
Hughes’ squad scattered four attack errors in the first frame and finished the match with 15.
“We still were really bad in that area,” Hughes said. “… That’s one of our Achilles’ heels right now … we have moments of brilliance but every once in a while, [we] give too many free … easy balls.”
Schnitta fueled a key six-point window for Maryland in the second frame as the squads traded sporadic scoring sprees.
The Terps’ pin hitter pelted two putaways, the latter of which Spohn complemented with Maryland’s seventh ace of the match to cap a 5-1 run that pushed the Terps ahead 11-7. Nataly Moravec pulsed Iowa’s offense with three kills to help the Hawkeyes keep pace.
Neither side scored more than three consecutive points until Maryland turned away from its outside hitters to generate a set-sealing run. Setter Sydney Dowler and Rohrbach, a middle blocker, each belted a kill after an Iowa error put the Terps ahead 21-16. Dowler won a joust at the net to send fellow setter Erin Engel to the endline with a bundle of set points to play with.
Engel spun Maryland’s third ace of the set to send the Terps back to their bench amid a spirited roar from the Pavilion crowd, whom Maryland had just treated to a second-straight 25-16 triumph.
The subsequent frame emerged as a sequel to the second stanza as neither side seized control of the frame until its closing stages. This time, however, the Hawkeyes flipped the script.
Audrey Black’s putaway rotated Moravec to the endline with Iowa trailing 16-15 — Moravec didn’t leave until her errant serve snapped a string of ten straight Hawkeye scores. Caitlan Buettner supplied three kills during Iowa’s onslaught before she blasted the stanza’s final putaway from the left pin to give the Hawkeyes just their fourth set victory in Big Ten play.
“We got a little bit distracted,” Hughes said. “ … Good teams [have] to find ways to close up shop.”
Sydney Bryant ensured Iowa’s fifth set victory in league play this season wouldn’t come in College Park. The freshman outside hitter walloped six kills off the bench in a set the Terps led from start to finish to secure a vital victory against an inferior opponent.