After No. 8 Wisconsin collapsed in five sets to Ohio State on Friday despite demolishing the Buckeyes in the opening two frames, the Badgers were inconsistent early in their Saturday matchup with the Maryland volleyball team.
Maryland won the second set to build hope against its second top-10 opponent in as many nights. But the Terps struggled to stay competitive in their four-set loss (13-25, 25-21, 14-25, 13-25).
“[Wisconsin’s] got a lot of talent, and they’re well trained and well coached,” coach Steve Aird said. “I assumed they were going to play one of their better matches of the year, and for big stretches, that’s what they did.”
Outside hitter Erika Pritchard led Maryland with 12 kills, but the Terps hit just .118. Wisconsin outside hitter Lauryn Gillis hit a match-high 17 kills while attacking at a .441 rate.
Setter Abigail Bentz delivered an errant pass behind opposite hitter Angel Gaskin in set one, and Gaskin was forced to hit a free ball to Wisconsin. The Badgers crushed it past the Terps’ defense for a 20-12 opening frame lead.
Setter Taylor Smith replaced Bentz, but Pritchard botched an attacking chance with a poor pass on the next point, and Smith followed that with a ball handling error. Libero Sam Burgio shanked her serve reception to cap a 4-0 run of Maryland miscues. Burgio finished with six receiving errors.
The sequence displayed the miscommunication that helped Wisconsin grab 14 of the last 17 points scored in the frame.
“[Wisconsin] lost a match last night and they started the right way [Saturday],” Aird said. “Everyone wants to make excuses. I think they were just pretty good and pretty clean.”
Wisconsin attacked at a .333 clip while Maryland hit below .100 in the final two frames. Badgers setter Sydney Hilley supplied 44 assists.
But the Terps tidied up their play in the second set, with serving and blocking leading to a 25-21 frame win. Two aces helped Maryland build its initial lead, and while Wisconsin narrowed the set late, blocks from opposite/outside hitter Samantha Drechsel, middle blocker Jada Gardner and opposite hitter Angel Gaskin secured the final two points of the win.
“What separated that set from the rest of them was our ability to start on time,” Gaskin said. “We had a pretty good lead by half and we just took off with that by that point. So, we set ourselves up for a successful … set.”
Maryland finished with nine service errors to two aces. Aggressive serving helped the Terps upset then- No. 17 Purdue on Oct. 29, but in the past two matches against top-10 teams it hasn’t had the same effectiveness. Still, Aird felt he couldn’t dial back the pressure as his squad needed a boost.
“You’re not going to have that luxury against top-10 teams on the road,” Aird said. “That mindset is going to help us become really, really, really good from the end line in time.”
Gillis ensured Wisconsin wouldn’t go down the same path it did against the Buckeyes the night before. She notched eight kills in the third set, pushing the Badgers to a 25-14 win, after matching five kills with five errors in Wisconsin’s loss against Ohio State.
Wisconsin continued its dominance to close out the match with a 25-13 fourth set win. After Maryland led, 8-7, the Badgers went on a 13-1 run to distance themselves from the Terps. Gillis powered her 17th kill of the match off Burgio’s arms to win it for Wisconsin.
“A lot of good outsides are just going to get their kills,” Gaskin said. “We just have to, like, tip your hat to them.”