Sarah Franklin soared through the air amid the backdrop of a sea of red-clad Wisconsin fans on their feet and sent a blistering spike across the net.
Her attack easily whistled through Maryland volleyball’s depleted defense for her 18th and final kill on a day where Wisconsin proved why it’s the nation’s top-ranked team.
The Terps never found their footing against the No. 1 Badgers en route to their 3-0 loss on Sunday in Madison. Maryland (13-7, 3-5 Big Ten) has lost three straight matches, its longest winless stretch this season.
“There [were] things within the match that we had control over that I didn’t think we did a great job [of],” coach Adam Hughes said.
The Terps committed 12 attack errors and registered just 23 kills, which materialized into a paltry 0.073 hitting percentage. Eva Rohrbach and Sam Csire led Hughes’ squad with five putaways each.
Maryland needed every possible break to go its way to complete what would have been a monumental upset — it barely got any. The Terps’ serve receive helplessly watched a cluster of Wisconsin serves glance off the net and drop onto their side. The Badgers out-aced Maryland 7-2.
“It was a bit frustrating just because sometimes there’s not much you can do about it,” defensive specialist Lilly Gunter said.
The Terps could do little to counter two of the game’s tallest players in 6-foot-9 Anna Smrek and 6-foot-7 Carter Booth, who combined for 15 kills and seven blocks.
Wisconsin (17-0, 8-0 Big Ten) grabbed five of the match’s first six points and routinely generated powerful swings on the attack throughout the set. Maryland looked overmatched trying to defend Franklin and Smrek, who each smacked down four kills before the Terps scored their ninth point.
Maryland slowed the match down following the Badgers’ fast start, using a pair of putaways from Csire and Rohrbach to keep within three points at 12-9. But the nation’s top team quickly turned the opening frame into a one-sided affair. Booth’s blast ignited an 8-1 surge that Franklin punctuated with her seventh kill to spell a Terps timeout with Maryland trailing by double digits.
Franklin capped her sizzling first set with one more putaway as the Badgers belted 16 kills to power past the Terps by 10 in the opening frame.
Smrek smacked down three more kills early in the second stanza before a familiar foe helped the Badgers seize command. Temi Thomas-Ailara, who transferred to Wisconsin after a sparkling career at Northwestern, punched consecutive putaways that knocked Maryland into a 10-5 hole as the Terps retreated to their bench to regroup.
Laila Ivey and Sam Csire’s four combined kills in the second frame provided the only punch from a dormant offense that posed no threat to the Badgers’ ballooning lead. Maryland finished the set with more errors than putaways and scored just one more point after hanging around 16-11. Wisconsin sprayed four aces throughout its 25-12 romp.
“They did a really good job tracking things down,” Hughes said. “Sam [Csire], to her credit, for a set or two, I thought she was actually taking some good swings. They were really good defensively.”
Nothing hinted at an unfathomable Terps rally in the first chunk of the subsequent frame. The Badgers parlayed a Maryland service error into an 8-0 run that jetted them ahead 12-3. Senior Sydney Dowler, playing her first match in her home state, led a Terps flurry that whittled Wisconsin’s advantage to 14-11. But a costly service error sapped Maryland’s momentum and Wisconsin collected 16 more kills in its 25-16 victory that will send the Terps back to College Park from their two-game road trip winless.
“I thought the group competed hard to finish,” Hughes said. “I didn’t think we necessarily played terribly … Wisconsin was just the better team today.”