Sydney Dowler caught a back row dig from Paula Neciporuka and floated a set high in the direction of Sam Csire. She rose and sent a booming spike over the net that two Wisconsin blockers fumbled to the floor.
Maryland volleyball stormed the floor as Csire’s 17th spike gave the Terps a 3-2 upset win over the No. 2 Badgers in College Park, the team’s first win over Wisconsin in program history.
“I’ve never been on a team that supports each other as much as this team does and matches each other’s energy as much as this team does,” Maryland defensive specialist Kaylee Thomas said. “This win was from all 16 players on the team.”
Cheered on by the third-largest crowd in Xfinity Center Pavilion history, the Terps went blow for blow with the visiting Badgers.
After splitting each of the first four sets of action, the teams went to a pivotal fifth frame in a 2-2 deadlock. Wisconsin had far out-killed Maryland throughout the contest, as star middle blocker Dana Rettke was up to 18 kills through the first four sets of action.
The Badgers struck first in the fifth, opening up a 4-2 lead after a bevy of Julia Orzol serves led to Wisconsin putaways.
But the Terps hung tough deep in the set.
Led by Csire, Maryland slowly chipped away at the Badgers’ late advantage. In a late three-point hole, Csire’s 14th kill of the evening sparked a 5-0 Maryland run to flip the fifth set on its head, re-energizing the crowd.
“They never backed down, never quit,” coach Adam Hughes said. “Just kept talking about execution and what changes we want to make.”
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While Maryland’s perseverance ultimately paid off in the fifth-set victory, it was apparent throughout the entire contest.
The Terps set the tempo for the match early in the first frame, as middle blocker Hannah Thompson got the ball rolling for Hughes’ squad with a thunderous kill over two Badger defenders to give her squad an early advantage.
Moments later, Wisconsin outside hitter Lauren Jardine looked to cut into an early deficit with a high-flying kill attempt, only to be roofed by Thompson and Dowler to the delight of the crowd.
And Maryland would continue to apply pressure on the No. 2 Badgers as the set progressed.
Neciporuka dazzled in the opening frame, accumulating six kills to power the Terps to a pair of set points.
Wisconsin managed to stave off the first set point after Rettke notched her fifth kill of the first frame, but Neciporuka wouldn’t be denied on the subsequent play.
Locating a Dowler lob on the left side, Neciporuka rose and fired, sending a missile past Wisconsin’s block to clinch a 25-23 first set victory for Maryland, the team’s first set victory over the Badgers in four years.
“Nobody’s going to outwork us, and we’re going to leave everything we have on the court,” Thomas said. “I don’t feel like there was a point in the game where we weren’t giving everything we had, and I think that’s what helped us get by.”
However, it wasn’t all smooth for the Terps.
Spurred by back-to-back spikes from Jardine and Devyn Robinson, Wisconsin showed its first flash of momentum with a 6-1 run midway through the second set. Rettke continued to cook, posting seven of her match-high 20 spikes to propel the Badgers to a 25-20 second set victory to knot the match at one set apiece.
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But once again, the Terps showed poise under pressure.
After a putaway by Csire stretched Maryland’s lead to two midway through the third set, middle blocker Rainelle Jones formed a personal wall at the net. Jones, who leads the NCAA in blocks per set, walled three straight Wisconsin spikes to force coach Kelly Sheffield to burn a timeout to talk things over with his squad.
However, Sheffield’s time-stopping tactic didn’t slow the Terps. Maryland steamrolled past the Badgers on an 11-2 run to clinch a 25-18 third set victory.
Suddenly, Hughes’ squad was just one set away from its biggest upset in program history.
The Badgers regained their footing in the fourth, bouncing back from an inefficient third set performance with a 16-kill fourth set. The Terps, who had posted a .233 hitting percentage in their third set victory, cooled off with just eight kills in the subsequent frame.
Wisconsin took advantage of Maryland’s sluggish fourth set, knotting the match at two sets apiece with a 25-20 fourth set victory to push the highly competitive Big Ten match to a deciding fifth frame.
That set belonged to Maryland. After falling into a three-point hole early in the frame, the Terps rattled off seven straight points to push their upset bid to the brink of completion.
And with a plethora of match points in hand, Csire’s final putaway of the evening clinched the victory for the Terps. Csire dropped to her knees as her teammates swarmed her, in awe of the momentous feat they had just accomplished.