A totally normally football score, but in this case, it’s the number of Wisconsin’s service errors to Maryland’s — and quite shocking. And that number is a large part of the reason why the No. 2 Wisconsin Badgers (0-1 Big Ten, 8-1 overall) are no longer unbeaten, as the Terps (1-0 Big Ten, 13-0 overall) shocked UW in five sets (23-25, 25-20, 18-25, 25-20, 10-15) and made a statement to the rest of the Big Ten.
UW lost the first set to the Terps by a score of 25-23. The Badgers — who had been much steadier at serving this season — finished with five service errors while the Terps had only one.
That story was much the same throughout the match, as service errors came at inopportune times for Wisconsin in a match that was otherwise very even. Maryland was impressive defensively, holding UW to a hitting percentage of .200 — well below the average of .350.
The Terps’ block also continuously found ways to make a difference. Maryland out-blocked Wisconsin 25 to 17 as Rainelle Jones had 11 blocks by herself. She was a constant presence on the inside, and maybe got in some Badger attackers’ heads. Normally steady Devyn Robinson had eight errors and only five kills while freshman Julia Orzoł had nine errors despite a career-high 15 kills.
It was a game where a pretty veteran Wisconsin team looked frazzled. Despite the many seniors, the attack was led at the start of the game by Orzoł and freshman Lauren Jardine on the pin. While the two finished with double digit kills, both struggled to get over that Maryland block. One turning point looked to be when head coach Kelly Sheffield subbed in fifth year outside Grace Loberg for Jardine, which immediately made a difference.
Loberg came up big in the fourth and early in the fifth set, finishing with 10 kills in just three sets played and had a higher hitting percentage than both Orzoł and Jardine.
And UW had every chance to close out the match in the fifth set after the Badgers got off to a quick start with three early kills from Loberg to take a 10-7 lead despite three service errors in the last frame.
But the Terps cut the lead to 10-9 and after it was tied at 10-10, a timeout from head coach Kelly Sheffield did not change momentum as Maryland closed out the match.
Although the match felt more a story of the Badgers beating themselves — especially for those watching in the red and white — Maryland looked very impressive in their first match in Big Ten play on their way to the biggest win in program history.
Freshman libero Milan Gomillion showed why she has won Big Ten Freshman of the Week many times as she finished with 17 digs — including a couple in the last set off of some of Rettke’s shots that she almost willed to stay in play.
Outside hitter Sam Csire had a team-high 17 kills along with 12 digs for a double double while Paula Neciporuka had 15 kills and 11 digs to do the same.
But in a match where Wisconsin was even in just about every other statistical category and where the seniors showed up in huge moments — Dana Rettke had 20 kills, Lauren Barnes had 21 digs and Sydney Hilley had 67 assists — the big red letters are the 17 service errors and 34 attacking errors.
Lots of questions for the Badgers now. What do you do when Devyn Robinson has an off night? How do you get the shots over other teams’ block? Should Loberg have more playing time as a steady, veteran option? How do they have fewer service errors while still serving aggressively?
UW will have the chance to immediately find answers to those questions and bounce back from the loss with a match on Saturday evening against Rutgers.