Down 7-1 to begin its match at No. 4 Wisconsin, Maryland volleyball head coach Adam Hughes called a timeout, hoping to stop the Badgers’ momentum in its tracks and regroup his team.
It didn’t work as a kill from Badger outside hitter Grace Loberg put the Terps down 8-1. The lead quickly extended to 9-1, which Maryland couldn’t ever overcome in an eventual straight set loss.
“We’re disappointed to be honest with you,” Hughes said. “I thought Wisconsin came out and was playing really well early...It came down to we didn’t make enough plays. We had some opportunities to do those and it was within our game to make those plays.”
When Maryland took the Nittany Lions to five sets in a loss in State College, Pennsylvania, on Oct. 11, it looked like the program might finally have the chops to compete against the top talent in the conference.
But that hasn't been the case since.
After being swept by then-No. 8 Penn State on Saturday, the Terps were blanked once again just five days later, losing two consecutive straight-set matches with Wednesday’s loss.
After falling into the 9-1 hole in set one, the Terps eventually worked their way back into the set, including a 11-4 run after being down 10 to cut the lead to 21-18. Three points was as close as Maryland (12-11, 4-7 Big Ten) got though, falling into an early 1-0 match hole.
“They really just jumped all over us. It was a big atmosphere, big crowd, top-5 team,” freshman outside hitter Rebekah Rath said. “I think we’re still trying to find our footing and get used to playing in that kind of crowd.”
Maryland was kept afloat by senior setter Samantha Snyder, who recorded four service aces in the set, including three in four points that helped the Terps cut the lead to three. However, the Terps were limited to eight kills in the set, hitting .026.
Set two was a better response from the Terps, who kept the score within five points for the early part of the set. That didn’t last long as a 9-4 run put Wisconsin (15-4, 11-0) ahead 15-11. Maryland was able to generate more offense, as did the Badgers, who flirted around .450 late.
A late Wisconsin 6-2 run put the set out of hand as the Terps failed to hit over .100 for the second straight set, hitting .061 with nine kills. Wisconsin’s aggressive attack showed, hitting .433 with 14 kills.
Maryland saved its best set for the third, but it was too little, too late. The score was close for much of the set, though, as Wisconsin stretched it out to 15-11. The Terps used a 5-1 run to tie the set at 16-16, hitting .500 to that point in the set.
Two Badger kills and a crucia service error from Terp Erika Pritchard, her second of the match, started a 6-1 Wisconsin run to put Maryland down five late, sealing the set and match win. While Maryland hit. 522 in the set, Wisconsin hit .517 with 19 kills and .369 overall.
“Being the underdog right now is one of the struggles,” sophomore middle blocker Rainelle Jones said. “I think we can match up against these teams, but I think we need to step up and be more scrappy against big teams like this.”
Three things to know
1. Maryland’s attack was silenced. Maryland hit below .100 in the first two sets, failing to record double-digit kills in both. The Terps’ two best hitters, Erika Pritchard and Katie Myers, combined for just 15 kills in the match, as Maryland had 19 less kills than Wisconsin overall.
2. The Terps had no answer for Dana Rettke. Rettke, the 6’8 junior middle blocker, came back last weekend against Michigan after a previous injury. She was dominant and error-free Wednesday, hitting .654 with 17 kills, leading the Badgers.
“We did pretty good against her left side, but when they were able to run towards our right side, our outside, we had some problems,” Hughes said.
3. Ranked opponents haven’t been kind to Maryland. The Terps haven’t won a match against ranked teams in the Big Ten this season, losing their last three in straight sets. It’s been a rough stretch and it doesn't get easier ahead with No. 6 Minnesota on Nov. 8 and Wisconsin again on Nov. 9.