A packed Pavilion crowd anxiously stood in unison as Sydney Bryant leaped at the left pin. The freshman outside hitter pulverized Sydney Dowler’s lob off of a Rutgers defender and out of bounds, eliciting one last roar for Maryland volleyball in 2023 from an enthralled home crowd.
Bryant’s career-high 18th kill clinched the Terps’ three-point win in the fifth set of Friday’s season finale, a 3-2 Maryland victory in College Park that secured the Terps’ second winning campaign in three years.
Maryland (17-15, 7-13 Big Ten) finished with seven wins in league play for the third straight season.
“The good news is we’re disappointed,” coach Adam Hughes said of the Terps’ record. “ … It wasn’t always that way … I finally feel like we’ve got a squad that can continue to say ‘Hey, being above .500 is not OK.’ And to me, I want to raise the bar. I want to raise expectations, and [I’m] kind of thankful that the program feels that way.”
After sealing Maryland’s fourth-set 25-20 victory with her 13th kill of the match, Bryant continued her career day to jolt the Terps ahead in the fifth frame. She opened the scoring in the decisive stanza with a solo block before pounding two putaways as Maryland slid ahead 4-1.
Rutgers drew even at 5-5 following a miscommunication on Dowler’s set, but the Terps’ offense straightened up and belted four kills to retake the lead at 10-6. Maryland’s attack then lapsed, committing three straight errors as the Scarlet Knights evened the frame at 10-10.
But the Terps kept swinging.
Both teams exchanged two-point runs before Anastasia Russ and Bryant hammered back-to-back putaways, setting up Bryant for Maryland’s final spike of the season.
“Tonight proved that she could be an exceptional player for us moving forward,” Hughes said of Bryant, whose 18 kills led all scorers.
The spirited energy that lingered inside the Pavilion following Maryland’s senior day ceremony turned stale as both squads struggled to find rhythm early on. Alissa Kinkela and Tina Grkovic powered Rutgers’ (10-19, 2-17 Big Ten) attack, while six different scorers propelled the Terps’ offense as Maryland muscled ahead 15-13.
But just when it appeared ready to deliver a knockout blow, the Terps erratically swung themselves out of the set.
Maryland committed seven attack errors out of Rutgers’ timeout as the Scarlet Knights corralled 12 of the frame’s final 13 points to pull away with a nine-point win.
On a night when the Terps’ seniors were honored, it was Bryant, a freshman, who shined in the second set.
She repeatedly soared from the left side and walloped five kills amid a crucial late 7-1 surge that left Maryland a point away from evening the match. Anna Hartman’s error on the ensuing point capped the Terps’ own nine-point triumph.
“Syd B. kind of gave us some coverage,” Hughes said. “She got some big kills in big situations and kind of let everyone else get back to ease.”
But Bryant and Maryland soon stumbled.
A pair of Bryant errors sent her back to the bench with the Terps behind 5-2 in the third set. None of her teammates could keep up with a smooth Scarlet Knights offense that produced 12 putaways on just 21 spikes in the frame.
Kinkela gave Rutgers its first double-digit lead at 18-8 before eventually closing out her team’s 15-point thrashing of Maryland with back-to-back aces.
Down a set for the second time, the Terps again turned to Bryant hoping to draw even. She feasted from the left side and blasted four kills to boost Maryland ahead 13-11. The rest of the Terps’ offense found its groove as Maryland powered ahead 20-15 following Erin Morrissey’s kill.
The Scarlet Knights rallied with five straight points, but the Terps held steady. Morrissey’s second putaway of the frame ignited a five-point counterpunch that Bryant polished off with her fifth kill of the stanza to seal Maryland’s fourth-set win.
And after defeating Indiana in five sets to close out the 2022 campaign, the Terps again dug deep to punctuate Maryland’s 2023 campaign with another resilient victory.
“Beating Indiana … really helped kind of propel the next three or four months of training,” Hughes said. “ … Some of the performance today could also help that, but for now, we’re gonna go celebrate seniors and cap another good season.”