September 21, 2018 | ° F

Crucial errors lead to two AAC losses over weekend

After five straight road games, the Rutgers volleyball team returned to the College Ave. Gym this weekend aiming to end a seven-game losing streak with two tough conference matches.

The Scarlet Knights’ long-awaited win did not come, as they lost in five sets to Cincinnati yesterday to finish the weekend. This game followed Friday’s four-set loss to AAC leader Louisville.

Rutgers (4-19, 0-9) quickly fell behind in an 11-3 hole in the fifth set against Cincinnati (1-22, 1-8). Head coach CJ Werneke called a timeout to rally his team, but Rutgers fell just short and lost the tie-breaker round, 15-12.

The fourth set proved competitive with the Knights and Bearcats trading leads throughout. Rutgers had the 20-19 lead, but timely Cincinnati kills left the Knights stunned, losing 25-23.

Rutgers never trailed during the third set. An 11-0 run, which included four service aces from sophomore libero Ali Schroeter, set the tone midway through, as the Knights eased to a 25-16 set win.

Rutgers controlled Cincinnati early in the second set. After being tied at 7, the Knights generated a 13-4 run before holding on to win the set, 25-22.

In the first set, Rutgers began strong for a 5-2 lead, but a string of aces, kills and errors allowed the Bearcats to score six unanswered points. Cincinnati never looked back after that, halting the Knights’ best efforts to climb back for a 25-21 first-set victory.

The loss against the Bearcats extends the Knights’ losing streak to nine and also leaves them winless in their conference. Rutgers last won Sept. 21, when it beat Cornell, 3-2.

“At times, I thought we executed at a really high level and put a lot of pressure on Cincinnati, from our offense, to our defense, to our serving,” Werneke said in a statement. “Unfortunately some errors at critical moments hurt us and we weren’t able to sustain a high level of play needed to come away with a victory.”

Against Louisville (14-7, 9-0), Rutgers started energetic and played well, but the Cardinals’ talent proved too much in the end, showing why they are unbeaten in conference play.

In the fourth and deciding set, the Knights battled hard to come back from a five-point deficit to bring their deficit to only 19-18. Louisville pulled away for a 25-20 victory, outscoring the Knights 6-2 following a timeout.  

The third set saw the Knights tied at 9, but the Cardinals slowly pulled away to win the set, 25-17. Rutgers hit a match-best .286 in the stanza.

Louisville impressed early in the second set, winning it, 25-10. The Knights hit a match-worst -.031 percentage in the frame along with a match-high seven attacking errors.

In the opening set, Rutgers led, 8-6, behind the strong play of sophomore outside hitter Alex Lassa. The Knights continued to compete with Louisville, trading the lead five times.

Tied at 23, an unforced error from outside hitter Maya McClendon — Louisville’s kills leader — and a kill from junior middle blocker Rachel Andreassian sealed the Knights win, 25-23. Rutgers hit an impressive .231 for the set.

Defensively, Schroeter produced a team-high 17 digs. Offensively, Andreassian was impressive, providing eight kills and a team-high .412 hitting percentage.

“I thought our team came out with a lot of energy and we executed at a really high level,” said head coach C.J. Werneke. “We had a great week of practice so it was good to see that translate to game day. A lot of fight, coupled with execution, is the way we want to play.”

For updates on the Rutgers volleyball team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

By Sean Stewart

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