September 21, 2018 | ° F

Experience gives much optimism

It is hard for the Rutgers volleyball team to find positives this season.

The Scarlet Knights (4-19, 0-9) possess a nine-game losing streak and no AAC victories.

They lost both home games this weekend, one of which was Sunday against formerly winless Cincinnati. It can be easy to look at the results and deem the weekend a failure, but despite the losses, the Knights feel there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic.

It started with their performance Friday against Louisville, where they pushed the AAC-leading Cardinals to their limit before ultimately falling in four sets.

Junior middle blocker Rachel Andreassian stood out against the Cardinals, providing eight kills and a team-high .412 hitting percentage.

“When you play a team that’s on a really high level, it does bring your level of play up,” Andreassian said. “I think we did a really good job playing together as a team and we saw a lot of great things even if we didn’t finish how we wanted to. So I think that will help us going into the next round of conference play.”

The Knights beat the Cardinals in the first set and also led the Cincinnati Bearcats, 2-1, before performing poorly to end the match.

For head coach CJ Werneke, the results do not reflect the team’s talent, but rather its inexperience in pressure situations.  

“We haven’t been in a tight situation like that in a while and haven’t been in a five-game set in a while. So it’s all down to experience,” Werneke said. “You can’t make freshmen and sophomores into juniors and seniors. They become juniors and seniors through experiences like that.”

To minimize crucial errors like those last weekend, the team focused on creating pressure situations in practice and preparing for different rotations it could face in matches.

“You never know what rotation you’re going to be in at the end of the game. It’s something we don’t control,” Werneke said. “We could be in Rotation 5, we could be in Rotation 2, we could be in Rotation 6. … You can never prepare them for a match that game day, in that kind of pressure, so we try to do the best we can during practice.”

Having played every conference team once, the Knights enter the second half of AAC play with familiarity.

With experience gained last weekend, sophomore libero Ali Schroeter believes the team has plenty to look forward to.

“I think we’re getting better every day. The younger girls are learning and getting the hang of it, and it shows as the progression of the year goes,” Schroeter said. “This weekend was a big confidence booster. We played really well against Louisville and took Cincinnati to five [sets] and maybe we should have won, but I definitely think going into the second round of conference play that we will be more ready for it.”

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

By Sean Stewart

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