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Maryland volleyball takes down No. 2 Wisconsin in five sets

The Terps upset the Badgers in their Big Ten opener and remain undefeated.

Courtesy of Maryland Athletics

With the match tied at two, Maryland volleyball found itself in a dangerous 10-7 game with the fifth set being played to 15 against No. 2 Wisconsin. Sophomore outside hitter Sam Csire was relaxed and dug deep, delivering two masterful kills, picking apart the defense.

With the rest of the roster and the crowd rallying around Csire’s hitting, the Terps seemed unstoppable. These two Csire kills led to an 8-0 run by Maryland, pushing them across the 15-point mark to earn the victory.

Maryland was able to maintain its perfect record, defeating Wisconsin in five sets (25-23, 20-25, 25-18, 20-25, 15-10). The Terps won their first game of conference play against a very worthy opponent, improving to 13-0.

The win marks the first time in program history that Maryland volleyball has defeated a top-two opponent and the first time Maryland emerged victorious over a ranked team since it did so in November of 2018 against then-No. 15 Michigan.

Maryland was the one to strike first on a Paula Neciporuka kill, energizing the crowd. The energy and will to win were evident from the get-go for both teams, erupting with each point scored.

The Terps were overflowing with confidence, not phased by the super team that is Wisconsin and its towering middle blockers. Maryland jumped to an early 8-5 lead with multiple Terps contributing. Wisconsin immediately responded with a 3-0 run, including two kills and one ace, to tie the game.

The teams continued to battle as Maryland proved its success could go beyond nonconference play.

Down 14-13, Wisconsin did what it does best and it began to dominate at the service line, rattling off a 4-0 with three kills and one block.

After a long and impressive rally, Csire sent the ball torpedoing towards the right side of the court that the Badgers could not control, tying the set at 17.

Up 21-20 late, Wisconsin was on the brink of tying the game when defensive specialist/libero Milan Gomillion dove to send a free ball over the net, allowing Maryland to reset. This came to be crucial as the Terps won the point to gain a 22-20 advantage.

After trading three consecutive points, Neciporuka secured the set one win with a furious kill, bringing the crowd to their feet.

The second set started with another big rally, highlighted by middle blocker Rainelle Jones controlling the net and coming away with her second kill of the match. Neciporuka continued her excellence into the second set, accounting for half of the Terps’ first six points.

With the score tied at seven, two Badger kills sparked a 6-1, gaining the biggest lead of the match. Maryland didn’t let them discourage them, however, responding with a 3-0 run to bring the set back within two.

The Badgers weren’t going to give up this easily though, countering with a 5-1 run to gain an 18-12 advantage.

Despite a 3-0 Maryland run late, the Badgers were able to hold on with a 25-20 win in set two.

The third set started exactly like the other two with each team trading blows, tied at five.

Then, Wisconsin put together a 3-0 run, but Hannah Thompson and the Terps were able to respond with a 3-0 run of their own to tie the game at nine.

After exchanging points, it was Maryland who broke things open with an empathic 5-1 run to gain a 20-17 lead, forcing a Wisconsin timeout. This run was a complete team effort as the Terps were able to convert on multiple long rallies.

Maryland continued its run out of the timeout as Jones sent four balls right back at Wisconsin, proving why she is the best blocker in the nation.

After a singular Wisconsin kill, Csire ended the set with another thunderous kill, her 10th of the night.

The fourth set started close yet again as the teams found themselves tied at four. After three straight kills, Wisconsin began to run away with the fourth set, exploding for a 6-0 run to go up 10-4.

Despite constantly fighting, the Terps seemed as if they were stuck in a hole too deep. Maryland was able to string together points in sets, but it was never enough to make an impact as Wisconsin always had a response.

Then out of nowhere, the Terps found daylight, erupting for a 4-0 run to cut the lead in half and putting life back into the arena.

Up 23-19, Wisconsin was able to force a fifth set with two critical kills.

Only needing 15 points to win, starting off strong was as important as ever. Both teams did just that, but it was Wisconsin who held the early 6-4 lead.

Neither team was able to rally for a run as each point came with a response from the opposition. This was true until Csire took control. Csire’s four kills helped the Terps go on an 8-0 run and propel Maryland to a 15-10 fifth set win.

Three things to know

1. The Terps defeated one of the best teams in the nation. Despite being the No. 2 ranked team in the country, Wisconsin was unable to beat Maryland. Wisconsin is the toughest opponent Maryland will face all season and this win should be a sign of good things to come for the Terps. Maryland has only Big Ten games remaining on its regular-season schedule, but the Badgers were easily the conference favorite and the Terps remain unscathed.

2. Rainelle Jones dominates no matter the opponent. Despite the Badgers being the best offensive team at the service line, Jones was unstoppable. Jones finished the match with 11 blocks and 2.2 blocks per set as she remains atop the nation's blocks per set standings. She delivered a clutch performance when Maryland needed it the most, and as a result, the Terps collected a remarkable upset victory on their home court.

3. The Badgers had no answer for Neciporuka and Csire. Despite its extreme height advantage, Wisconsin was unable to contain Maryland’s outside hitters. Csire and Neciporuka combined for a total of 32 kills, including five by Csire in the fifth set. Both outside hitters were big reasons as to why Maryland is now a perfect 13-0 on the season.