Maryland volleyball resembled the superior team throughout the early rallies of Saturday’s match against No. 16 Purdue.
The Terps’ energy initially smothered a sluggish Boilermakers offense one night after Purdue roped 69 kills in an upset win over No. 3 Wisconsin.
Maryland repelled four Boilermakers shots to build a 16-11 lead in the first set. More importantly, the Terps executed against Purdue’s elite talent.
Two of Maryland’s rejections came against Eva Hudson, who buried the Badgers on Friday night with 30 kills. The Terps limited Chloe Chicoine, the Boilermakers’ other proficient outside hitter, to three kills en route to mounting their five-point advantage.
But Maryland’s sturdy block quickly softened. Hudson and Chicoine began to pick away at a Terps defense that struggled to stymie Purdue’s spikes. The Boilermakers rallied to win the first set.
Maryland’s inconsistent defense persisted in Saturday’s match. The Terps went point-for-point with Purdue when their block was at its best. But Maryland looked overpowered once Hudson and Chicoine found their form. The Terps failed to steadily deliver their defense as Hudson and Chicoine combined for 30 of Purdue’s 43 kills.
Maryland’s 3-0 loss to the Boilermakers marks its ninth straight-set defeat this season.
“At times, we did a good job defending them, and then sometimes, they’re just going to score their points,” libero Lilly Gunter said.
Coach Adam Hughes praised his team’s defensive effort Saturday and said Maryland played Purdue “a lot tougher” than it did during the teams’ meeting last season in West Lafayette — a 3-0 Terps win against the then-ninth-ranked Boilermakers.
Hudson and Chicoine already burned Maryland earlier this year. The pair accounted for two-thirds of the Boilermakers’ 48 putaways in Purdue’s 3-1 win in September. Hughes said Wednesday that his squad “for sure” needed to change its strategy toward defending the pair after that initial meeting, but the Terps had no answers.
Maryland often limited Hudson and Chicoine early in sets on Saturday before losing control of them on the outside. Eighteen of the pair’s 30 putaways came after the halfway point in a set. Just four of Maryland’s 13 blocks occurred in the latter half of a frame.
“Sometimes we would go on some runs and be playing really good volleyball, and then sometimes we couldn’t execute,” Gunter said.
The Terps already had four blocks by the time they scored their seventh point of the first set. But their next rejection didn’t come until after the Boilermakers’ duo warmed up to melt Purdue’s deficit.
Hudson and Chicoine bombarded Maryland with seven combined putaways that wiped away the Terps’ 16-11 advantage. The pair propelled the Boilermakers to set point with a four-point cushion.
Even after rejecting Hudson to cap a four-point rally that evened the set at 24, Maryland couldn’t thwart Purdue’s top scorers. Chicoine and Hudson each chipped in kills on consecutive rallies to seal their team’s two-point win.
The second set played out similarly.
Maryland’s stinginess helped it remain competitive in the early phases of the set. The Terps blocked three shots and limited the Boilermakers’ duo to four kills to keep within two points at 14-12.
Then, Maryland lost control. Chicoine broke free for three putaways during a 7-1 run that put Purdue comfortably ahead, 21-13. The Terps never regained their footing and fell behind 2-0.
Maryland’s block continued to crumble. Hudson ripped five spikes past the Terps to open up a 16-10 Purdue lead in the third frame. But this time, Maryland’s rollercoaster defensive effort pulled it back into the set. The Terps silenced Hudson, kept Chicoine scoreless and racked up three blocks — pulling ahead 23-22.
It wasn’t enough.
Hudson slipped two more spikes through the Terps’ block, the second of which erased a set point opportunity for Maryland and delivered another 24-24 tie.
“Eventually, [Hudson’s] gonna find ways to score,” Hughes said. “She’s too good.”
Once again, the Terps faltered after failing to contain Purdue’s go-to scorers. Both sides scored a point before Hudson put the Boilermakers ahead 26-25. That set up Chicoine for her only kill of the set and brought Maryland’s up-and-down defensive outing to a close.
Hughes may have ultimately been satisfied with the Terps’ effort, but Saturday’s latest disappointment dropped Maryland to 6-12 in conference play. It also prolonged its quest for a signature win to salvage its 10th-straight sub-.500 conference campaign.