Maryland volleyball travels to No. 4 Wisconsin on Wednesday, looking to find a statement win to keep its hopes alive for an NCAA Tournament bid.
It was another 1-1 week for Maryland, defeating Northwestern in five sets in Evanston, Illinois, and losing in straight sets to. No. 8 Penn State on the main court at Xfinity Center.
The Big Ten schedule doesn’t get easier against the top-5 Badgers in Madison, Wisconsin, who are the lone team with an undefeated record in conference play. It’s going to take a near-perfect showing for Maryland to have a chance, especially on the road.
No. 4 Wisconsin (14-4, 10-0 Big Ten) — Wednesday, 8 p.m.
The Badgers come into Wednesday’s match close to or at the top of several statistical categories in the conference. Wisconsin leads the Big Ten with a .288 hitting percentage and 1.79 service aces per set, and is second with 14.05 kills per set and 13.22 assists per set.
While the Badgers are among the conference leaders on the attack, on defense, it’s a different story as opponents are hitting .211 against Wisconsin — third-worst in the Big Ten. Wisconsin is also ninth in blocks and sixth in digs.
Players to watch
Dana Rettke, junior middle blocker, No. 16. In a balanced Wisconsin attack that features three different hitters with over 200 kills this season, Rettke leads the team with 219 and 3.91 kills per set. Her .414 hitting percentage leads the team and is third in the conference. She is also second on the team with 70 total blocks.
Sydney Hilley, junior setter, No. 2. Wisconsin’s attack is fueled through Hilley, who leads the team with 721 assists, seventh-highest in the conference. Her 11.63 assists per set leads the Big Ten and is top-15 in the country.
Tiffany Clark, senior libero, No. 17. Clark, one of the veteran leaders on the Badgers, has captained the defense, leading the team with 220 digs and 3.55 digs per set. That includes a team-leading 125 digs and 3.68 digs per set in conference play. She’s going to give Maryland fits on the attack.
Three things to watch
1. How will Maryland respond from the Penn State match? Maryland had its sights set on a home upset of the Nittany Lions after taking them to five sets in State College, Pennsylvania. After losing in straight sets, one has to wonder how Maryland will respond. The team can either use it as fuel, or it could derail its confidence.
2. Can Maryland get off to a quick start? Slow starts have been Maryland’s biggest problem this season, especially in conference play. Wisconsin isn’t going to give the Terps many opportunities on its home floor, so to have any chance in the match, Maryland will need to come out swinging early and often.
3. Will the Badgers prove to be too much in Madison? Wisconsin has emerged as the Big Ten’s best team so far this season, defeating Nebraska, Penn State and Minnesota so far. That formula doesn’t spell success for the Terps, with the Badgers in a good position to be 11-0 after Wednesday.