After an impressive win against Ohio State Friday night, No. 3 Wisconsin (2-0 Big Ten, 9-1 overall) continued its remarkable run of dominance Saturday, trampling the Maryland Terrapins (0-2, 8-6) in three sets—25-12, 25-18, 25-21—to improve to 2-0 in the first weekend of Big Ten play.
Despite playing the part of the underdog, Maryland took the floor with great energy and a distinct air of confidence. Unfortunately for the Terps, any hope of catching the home team off guard subsided the moment senior setter Lauren Carlini hit the court.
Carlini, the program’s all-time leader in double-doubles, looked dialed in from the getgo, providing an early spark on offense with four straight service aces to put UW in front 8-1. She ended the set with a career-high four aces, six assists and six digs.
"I was just trying to move the ball around a little bit and not give people the same looks over and over again and get them in a rhythm," Carlini said after the match. "I was just trying to keep them on their toes and keep people moving around and balls were falling. It's good because it builds momentum for the team and just gets a rhythm going for the match so it's a good start."
In the second set, Wisconsin had to fight through a string of miscues that breathed new life into Maryland. Then, with both teams gridlocked at six points each, Carlini delivered yet again. She stuffed an incoming attack with an emphatic block that electrified another raucous crowd.
After Carlini came up with the tie-breaking block, Wisconsin settled down and rattled off six consecutive points to stake out a lead. The ever-persistent Terrapins clawed their way back into the game, trimming Wisconsin’s lead to 22-17 towards the end of the set. The Badgers would hang on, though, prevailing 25-18 to claim a two-set lead.
Senior middle back Haleigh Nelson, who compiled a team-high 11 kills along with five blocks, acknowledged that Wisconsin’s execution wasn’t always sharp, as sloppy play forced the Badgers into a few jams that likely could have been avoided.
“Things got a little rough in the second and third sets but we really stuck with it in our effort," Nelson said. "Our focus never fell off, we just made a few errors and just weren't clean but I think that happens sometimes in matches.”
That being said, Nelson was pleased to see the team smoothed out the rough patches and squelched an industrious opponent.
“Maryland is a team that fights really hard and they're a team that will have that happen and then turn up their game and go even harder,” Nelson said. “Even though those last two set scores were a little bit closer, I'm still proud of how our team played.”
If the Badgers thought the second set was a battle, they were in for a dog fight in the third. In the closest set of the contest, UW grabbed a 5-0 lead, but that score wouldn’t hold as Maryland benefitted from a number of successful hits to cut the lead to 17-16.
From there, The Badgers needed multiple clutch kills from redshirt senior outside hitter Romana Kriskova and sophomore middle back Tionna Williams to stave off a potential collapse. Thanks to Kriskova and Carlini, who combined for a clutch block on match point, the Badgers escaped the set and upended the Terps in a sweep.
On the heels of a 15-block match with OSU, Wisconsin continued to play suffocating defense Saturday night, holding UMD to a .077 hitting percentage.
Just three digs shy of a triple-double, Carlini recorded her 64th career double-double with 11 points and 32 assists. While the senior setter remains the most prominent player for Wisconsin, the team is very well rounded, receiving invaluable contributions from a variety of sources. In addition to Carlini’s sterling effort, the Badgers also received quality production from Kriskova as well as freshman outside hitter Molly Haggerty, who tallied nine and eight kills, respectively.
The Badgers will continue the newly-minted conference season in Indiana next weekend, where they will face No. 14 Purdue Friday night before taking on Indiana Saturday evening. The Badgers won’t return home until October 8 when they will host Illinois.