Despite a strong start, No. 14 Penn State was too much for Maryland to handle. The Nittany Lions came back from down two sets to prevent the upset.
Following Maryland’s undefeated start for their first 13 matches, including the greatest win in school history against then No. 2 Wisconsin, Maryland fell flat at No. 7 Minnesota, losing 3-0 and now Penn State, 3-2.
Unfortunately for the burgeoning team, the Terps’ schedule does not get easier, but they were still looking to have a better result facing Penn State. And to head coach Adam Hughes, it was more than another match.
Hughes, a former Penn State graduate, had originally worked for Penn State from 2003 to 2008 as a Volunteer Assistant Coach. He then took a year off before rejoining the team as Director of Volleyball Operations from 2010 to 2013.
The fans were anticipating something special too. Attendance neared 1,550, with mostly all dressed in red, hoping to see Maryland pull off another upset.
“I feel like the energy towards us, it brings us up,” said MB Rainelle Jones of the large crowd. “It brings us energy to do more, to play more, to play harder.”
The large crowd might have amped up the players as Maryland came out the gate strong with a 8-3 lead. Three unanswered points from PSU shrunk the lead, but Maryland eventually was able to answer with a five point run of their own, giving them a seven point lead and a score of 15-8.
As the set neared its end, it looked as if Maryland would easily win its first set — and they did, as a Penn State service error ended the set with a Maryand victory by the score of 25-19.
Set two, however, was close to the very end, with both sides routinely giving and taking points. The highest lead either side had was by 2 points.
The score was tied at 23 apiece when an electric Paula Neciporuka spike set Maryland up for victory. The crowd was on its feet and Penn State needed a timeout.
Further back and forth ensued and a Sam Csire kill set a demanding 2-0 lead for Maryland
The packed stands went crazy as the Terps claimed prime position to take down their second ranked opponent in three matches.
But Penn State was not yet ready to give up, starting off set three with a 7-4 lead, which ballooned to a 19-12 lead. Maryland started to come back near the end, scoring three points in a row, narrowing the lead to four. Afterwards they exchanged blows, but it was too little too late for Maryland, though. Despite a late push, Penn State won their first set, 25-22.
For the final two sets, the chase continued and Penn State held the advantage of momentum. In set four and five, the Nittany Lions broke out into an early lead and Maryland was forced to exhaust itself to attempt to equalize. Its efforts were foiled by the ranked visitors, but Hughes believes there was plenty to take away from the loss.
“I think the locker room is obviously just a little disappointed because it was so close and in front of them,” said Hughes, “but we talked a lot about trying to look at the process of where we put ourselves in a position to win and the reason we did that is because we got back to playing our style of volleyball.”
Maryland will look to end its skid when it plays at Ohio State on Oct. 2.