The No. 1 Wisconsin Badgers swept Maryland on Sunday afternoon at the UW Field House, continuing a streak of dominance that has shown no signs of slowing down.
The Badgers are now 17-0 and off to an even better start than the national championship-winning 2021 team. Their record marks a new school record for best start to a season, and they set a new NCAA record after winning 27 consecutive sets, dating back to their five-set thriller against Florida last month.
Incredibly, the Badgers have not lost a set in Big Ten play and have now won 26 straight matches in the conference, dating back to last year. The Badgers trailed only once in this match during a 1-0 deficit in the third set. There was also only one tie in the match, coming on the second point of the first set. Wisconsin opened up a 20-10 lead in that set and didn’t look back, winning 25-15.
The Badgers cruised in the second set 25-12. They faced only a little more resistance in the third, winning 25-16 with a kill from Sarah Franklin, one of her 18 kills that led the way once again for Wisconsin. Supporting her was Anna Smrek with 11 kills and Temi Thomas-Ailara with eight.
The Badgers were once again without Devyn Robinson and MJ Hammill but were able to dominate despite their absences. Izzy Ashburn more than made up for Hammill’s absence by contributing a career high 35 assists and 11 digs, giving her a double double.
Amid a streak of sweeps, this was probably one of Wisconsin’s strongest performances to date. The Badgers posted a .311 hitting percentage while limiting Maryland to just a .029 hitting percentage.
The Badgers truly look invincible right now, but head coach Kelly Sheffield is trying to keep the team grounded.
"We're not focusing in on our win-loss record. We're not focusing on that kind of stuff. We're just buying in to keep getting better and there's so much area I think, especially as an athlete, where it gets to be really exciting — when you can just keep seeing so many areas that you gnaw and go after it to try to get better,” he said.
That focus will be required this week as Wisconsin hosts Ohio State this Wednesday before the match of the year on Saturday against No. 2 Nebraska in Lincoln.