By Sean Montiel
Maryland’s schedule has been extremely tough over the past couple weeks, and it currently finds itself in the midst of the toughest stretch of the season. On Friday night, the Terps fell in a closely contested match to the fifth-ranked Golden Gophers of Minnesota. On Saturday, they traveled to Madison to face off against the Wisconsin Badgers. On the road for another night, they lost in 4 sets: 25-13, 21-25, 25-14 and 25-13.
Coming into Saturday night, the Badgers had been in a slump. They were losers in three of their last four.
The first set saw the Terps jump out to a quick lead. Erika Pritchard, Samantha Drechsel and Hailey Murray all contributed early to set the tone.
While it was down, Wisconsin didn’t deviate from its game plan. It sat back and waited for Maryland to make some mistakes, which it did. The Terps tallied eight total errors in the first set alone. Once they had the momentum, it was senior Kelli Bates who took over; she was no match for the Terps defense, as evidenced by her seven kills in the set.
In the second set, Maryland found its groove. An Erika Pritchard kill kicked things off, and they would be in control the rest of the way. Tied at two, an uncharacteristic attack error from the Badgers, this time from Dana Rettke, gave the Terrapins the advantage. They wouldn’t relinquish the lead, as the Badgers didn’t so much as tie the score.
Coming out of the halftime break, Wisconsin put its pedal to the metal and came out firing. Sydney Hilley put the first point on the board for the Badgers, followed by a Gia Milana kill for the Terps. One of Maryland’s biggest problems this year has been its inaccuracy on serves. That showed on a Gia Milana service error to give the opposition the lead. Wisconsin took it wire-to-wire to take a decisive 2-1 match lead.
Maryland showed fight in the fourth, but the dominance of the Badgers’ attack proved too much for them. While Maryland had an 8-7 lead at one point, the home squad controlled the entire set, which is shown in the final score.
A .118 hitting percentage defined the loss for Steve Aird’s team. Time and time again it was stymied by Wisconsin’s blockers up front. Together, they totaled 11 blocks, and combined with Maryland’s 24 attack errors, it was relatively easy for them to win the match.
Angel Gaskin and Hailey Murray were the lone bright spots for the team. They each posted five kills with terrific .357 and .333 percentages. Meanwhile, Pritchard, Milana, and Drechsel all had sub-.100 hit rates.
Next week, it’ll be No. 7 Nebraska and No. 1 Penn State for the Terps, both on the road. If they can find a way to play more consistently on the offensive side, an upset victory is certainly possible.