Nebraska volleyball entered its match against Maryland with a 25-match winning streak at the Devaney Center, a venue that averaged a nation-high 8,210 fans in 2016. The No. 6 Cornhuskers have dropped just five sets at home this season.
Maryland didn't change that in its straight-sets defeat Wednesday (11-25, 15-25, 16-25), as the Cornhuskers' 26th straight home win extends the longest active streak in NCAA Division 1. The Terps are 16-11 and 5-10 in the Big Ten, with a fourth straight top-10 matchup on Saturday against No. 1 Penn State.
Four Nebraska seniors graduated, three of whom were All-Americans, last year after winning the Big Ten championship. But the Cornhuskers are in the running for another title, tied for first in the conference with Penn State, and bolstered by another class of five seniors. Nebraska doesn't have another ranked challenger remaining in its season, yet it didn't look past Maryland toward the looming NCAA tournament.
"When you have a veteran team like that, the goal is to win the Big Ten, that's what you do," coach Steve Aird said. "I've been on the other side of it. I thought they played a really clean match and [you] tip your cap."
Opposite/outside hitter Samantha Drechsel led the Terps with nine kills. Nebraska hit .406 with five players atabove five kills.
The Cornhuskers trounced the Terps through a balanced attack and clinical service game. Prior to the match, Aird said Nebraska doesn't tend to rack up the ace numbers, but it limits errors and forces opposing teams out of system.
The Cornhuskers established an end line advantage with four aces in the first frame while libero Sam Burgio recorded six receiving errors. Maryland finished with 10 receiving errors as it coped for the ninth match in a row without libero Kelsey Wicinski. In her stead, four underclassmen have handled the majority of first pass duties. The Terps struggled in that realm, leading to a .081 hitting percentage.
"They're the best serving team in the Big Ten," Aird said. "The people we have passing right now are young, and they need experience."
Maryland jumped to a 10-6 edge in the second frame, but Nebraska retook a lead as the Terps stumbled on attack. Aird took a timeout when Nebraska established a 12-10 edge after six straight points, capped off with outside hitter Gia Milana's free ball effort on a broken play striking the middle of the net. The Cornhuskers ended the set on a 19-5 run, winning the frame, 25-15.
Maryland kept the third frame closer as it outblocked Nebraska in the match, 5-4, adding three in set three. But the Cornhuskers pulled away to a straight set win on the back of 10 aces.
Nebraska setter Kelly Hunter, who finished with 34 assists, spread out an attack in which just one player hit below .250 and five ended in double figure attempts.
"It definitely makes a difference when you have a setter who's spreading the ball around," Drechsel said. "It looks like she'll set one way and then she sets the other way."