Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics
By Ryan Colasanti
Maryland Volleyball capped off its non-conference schedule with a terrific showing at the Cavalier Classic, winning all three of its games over the weekend.
The Terps entered the weekend with a 6-3 record after wrapping up a three-game road trip in San Diego, Calif. Maryland won two games in California but lost Game 3 to Arizona.
The Terps continue to boast of a formidable defense, ranking first in the nation in blocks. Defensive leader Rainelle Jones leads the Terps in blocks with 55. Those 55 blocks ranked Jones fourth in the NCAA heading into the weekend.
Maryland looked to bring their high-powered defense into their opener against Mercer.
Mercer entered the game with a 4-5 record after losing its last game in a sweep to Stetson University. This game was the first between the two programs ever.
The first set started strong for the Terps, as they took a four-point lead. Maryland held that lead for most of the set until Mercer fought to tie it at 19. Anastasia Russ’ back-to-back wins propelled Maryland to a win in the set, 25-22.
Maryland came out shooting in the second set. The Terps quickly took a six-point lead via a 5-0 run. The Terps took control and won the set 25-17.
The third set was a tight competition throughout, with neither team able to get much of a lead. Maryland started to follow the momentum, but Mercer kept fighting. Mercer ended the comeback campaign by winning the set 25-22.
The Terps started the fourth set on a 3-0 run. That lead continued to grow throughout the set. Maryland used a late 6-0 scoreline to secure its first win on Friday, taking the game 3-1.
The match portrayed the Terps’ dominant defense, with the team recording 18 blocks in total. Rainelle Jones made her mark in Maryland history, rising to number two all-time on the Maryland Total Blocks Rankings.
Jones’ effect on this team is not just in the record books, but also in his leadership.
“She’s been a phenomenal leader this year,” said Sydney Dowler.
The Terps looked to build on their momentum from their first win in Game 2 against East Carolina, which lost to Virginia earlier in the day.
The first set was tight from the start, with neither team able to take a more than three-point lead. That changed when Maryland went 5-0 midway through the set. The Terps led this scoring run to a set victory, 25-21.
East Carolina came out on fire to start the second set. The Pirates earned seven of the first nine points to take an early lead. That didn’t deter the Terps as they battled all the way to take the 16-15 lead. That lead would hold, as the Terps won the second set, 25-22.
Maryland started the third set taking a seven-point lead. The Terps controlled the set throughout, winning 25-13 and completing the sweep of East Carolina.
Maryland was dominant again on Friday, continuing a trend of winning on Friday.
The Terps are 8-0 in games played on a Friday this year.
Maryland’s defense was dominant throughout the day, amassing 26 blocks and holding opponents under a .200 hit percentage. The offense appeared to have made progress, with the Terps hitting a .362 clip against East Carolina.
Maryland looked to incorporate its offensive improvements into its Saturday game against longtime foe Virginia. Virginia came into the game having won both of their matchups on Friday.
The first set was tight early on, but the Terps took a three-point lead midway through the set. A late 5-0 run helped seal the Terps’ 25-19 win.
Virginia came out in the second set and quickly took a 9-4 lead. The lead did not affect Maryland as they continued to fight and eventually gained a point lead late in the set. This Terps then used a 4-0 run that secured a 25-20 set win.
The third set was a close contest, with both teams trading points. Maryland won a small split midway through the set via a 3-0 run. The split was enough for Maryland as the Terps won a 3-0 sweep of Virginia.
The Terps continued their defensive dominance throughout the weekend, combining for 39 blocks and holding all opponents under .200 hitting percentage.
Maryland also showed improvement in off-system situations, which coach Adam Hughes was proud to see.
“The one thing I’m really proud of is that the group did a good job of realizing that it’s a team skill, you know, what I mean by that is that he It’s hard to get some of those swings out of the system you have to be a little brave,” Hughes said.
The other bright spot for Maryland was the return of Gem Grimshaw. Grimshaw appeared in both games Friday, racking up three kills against Mercer.
“We wanted to come here to see if we could gain some confidence, and I think she’s glad to be out and at least put on the jersey,” Hughes said.
The next challenge for Maryland comes when they start Friday’s Big Ten game against No. 25-ranked Illinois.