Maryland volleyball had been there before.
Last month, the Terps took the first set against Michigan, but they couldn’t maintain the pressure and eventually folded in four sets. In a rematch in Ann Arbor on Wednesday, Maryland once again secured a first-set win, setting itself up well against the No. 15 team in the country.
When middle blocker Rainelle Jones rose up to reject a Michigan attacker and give Maryland a 2-1 edge in the second set, it marked a change of fortune for the Terps. The Terps posted 11 blocks in the second set alone, part of a 13.5-block night, helping to prevent a late Michigan comeback.
Then, the Terps secured the third frame, again limiting the Wolverines’ offensive prowess, to ensure their first road win over a ranked opponent in program history.
“The one thing that we talked about going into this was we have to keep throwing our best punch, and not let someone else decide how we feel about ourselves,” coach Adam Hughes said.
History was not on the Terps’ side heading into the contest. They had never beaten the Wolverines before, still adjusting to the level of play the Big Ten demands. And after an offseason exodus of top attacking talent, the youth-filled Maryland team was picked to finish 13th in the Big Ten preseason poll — far from a squad expected to pull off an upset.
The Terps have shown occasional flashes of promise against ranked opponents this season, but they never remained consistent enough to deeply trouble top opposition.
When three straight Michigan points gave it a 25-24 lead in the second set, it appeared as if Maryland’s luck had again run out. But the Terps managed to battle their way to a 30-28 set victory, capped off with one more Jones block.
The Wolverines had 13 kills and hit a respectable .294 in the first set. But instead of allowing Michigan to build off that momentum, the Terps played stifling defense the rest of the way, holding Michigan to negative hitting percentages in each of the next two sets.
Outside hitter Liz Twilley, who played an integral role in the win with 11 kills and four blocks, said the Terps did not play much differently than they had in their first matchup with Michigan. Instead, they played with more conviction.
“This time, I think we just had more of a belief in ourselves,” Twilley said. “We knew we won the first set because we played well, we didn’t attribute it to them not being ready. We knew in the second set if we just kept going with what we were doing and playing hard we’d be able to win.”
The victory gives the Terps seven Big Ten wins, matching their total from last season. Maryland remains on the bubble for the NCAA tournament, so with five regular-season matches left — including three against top-10 opponents — snatching the win from the Wolverines is crucial.
But while the Terps were happy to leave Ann Arbor with a win, Hughes is making sure that his team doesn’t forget the work still ahead.
“We’ve said about wins and losses all season, it’s a dusk-to-dawn philosophy,” Hughes said. “We can think about it until tomorrow morning when the sun comes up and then it’s a new day. I’ll let them enjoy this, and I think the staff is going to enjoy this a little bit, but we’ve got to get back to work tomorrow.”