Jonna Spohn’s line-drive serve nicked the net and fluttered toward the court as an Ohio State defender dove forward, trying to keep the point and the Buckeyes alive.
But Spohn’s offering beat the outstretched hand to the floor, sparking a long-overdue celebration for Maryland volleyball. The Terps swept Ohio State 3-0 on Sunday for their first win this month to snap a three-game losing streak.
“They just keep battling for each other,” coach Adam Hughes said of his team. “Very, very proud.”
Maryland (16-12, 6-10 Big Ten) had been swept in each of its first three matches in November ahead of Sunday’s contest. The Terps often fell too far behind early in sets and rarely registered crucial kills in contested frames during their skid. Neither of those issues surfaced against the Buckeyes (10-15, 7-9 Big Ten).
Maryland never trailed by more than four points and found timely putaways from a cluster of different scorers including outside hitter Erin Morrissey, who led the team with a career-high 12 kills.
The Terps also atoned for their 3-0 loss at then-No. 22 Ohio State last month, which Hughes called the worst performance he had seen in his six seasons leading Maryland.
“[The players] would be the ones to tell you we didn’t play very well at Ohio State,” Hughes said Sunday. “ … There’s no, like, revenge factor. It’s just knowing we didn’t give our best.”
The Terps started slowly in their last match against No. 2 Wisconsin on Friday and on Sunday, Sarah Sue Morbitzer spun back-to-back aces in the first set that helped put Maryland in a 4-0 hole. But unlike Friday’s contest, the Terps responded to the opening surge and stayed within striking distance.
With Maryland down three, Sydney Dowler found Samantha Schnitta in the middle of the back row for one of the cleanest looks of the set. Schnitta smoked it off of an Ohio State defender for one of her three putaways in the frame. The Terps also began laying off the Buckeyes’ aggressive serves and watched three Ohio State offerings sail out of bounds.
Chelsea Thorpe’s solo block increased the Buckeyes’ lead to 18-14, but Maryland drew even with another Schnitta kill that capped a 4-0 run. The Terps took their first lead of the weekend at 19-18 following Thorpe’s error on the ensuing point.
After flurries by both teams squared the stanza at 23 apiece, Maryland found the key spikes it needed to put the frame away. Dowler capitalized first to slide the Terps ahead before Sam Csire zipped a cross-court shot that clinched Maryland’s two-point triumph — its first set victory this month.
“We talked about the [scoring] runs this week in practice, and just saying, ‘Hey, someone’s gonna have to step up in that situation and find a way to get an answer,’” Hughes said. “… I thought they did a good job there.”
The Terps battled late to win the second set as well.
Maryland’s middle blockers put the Terps ahead for good when Eva Rohrbach and Anastasia Russ supplied kills on consecutive points to make it 19-18.
After an Ohio State attack error, Russ and Dowler smothered Thorpe’s spike to grow Maryland’s lead to three, the largest for either team in what had been a contested stanza. The Terps extended that advantage. Schnitta tacked on another late kill, and the Buckeyes’ seventh attack error of the frame sealed Maryland’s six-point win.
The back-and-forth battles continued throughout the third set. Emily Londot’s 15th kill boosted the Buckeyes ahead 17-14. The Terps parried with a three-point run to tie the frame and didn’t flinch when Ohio State rattled off five of the next six points. Rohrbach and Morrissey’s tag-team block ignited a 5-0 run, and Morrissey countered a Buckeyes kill with her final putaway that set up Spohn’s skid-snapping serve.
“We work on this in practice all the time, probably about every day,” Morrissey said of staying composed late in tight sets. “ … We know how to compete and come back from this.”