Knights drop two in Texas to continue 11-game skid
The Rutgers volleyball team traveled to Texas this weekend hoping for its first conference victory.
While the Scarlet Knights lost both, sophomore libero Ali Schroeter set a new Rutgers single-season digs record. She compiled 11 digs in Sunday’s four-set loss to Houston.
Schroeter has 474 digs on the season, surpassing former Knight Shayla Bush’s mark of 463 digs from 2002.
“It’s a culmination of her approach to practice and to the sport,” said head coach CJ Werneke. “She’s all in, all the time and does all she can to help this team to be the best it can be. I’m just really excited that all her hard work is paying off and she’s going to be recognized for that.”
The individual achievement does not erase that the Knights (4-21, 0-11) lost their 11th straight match.
In Rutgers’ fourth set Sunday against Houston (15-11, 7-4), the Cougars opened with an 8-1 lead.
Strong defensive play and timely kills from junior middle blocker Rachel Andreassian and freshman outside hitter Micaela Anderson gave the Knights a 22-21 lead. But critical late errors once again cost the Knights as they lost the set, 25-22.
In the third set, Rutgers compiled its best offensive performance of the match.
The Knights began the set leading, 9-0, thanks to strong serving from sophomore defensive specialist Ronnie Komisarek. Rutgers won the set, 22-19, while holding Houston to a .026 hitting percentage.
The Cougars controlled the second set, jumping out to an 18-10 lead. They held onto it, 25-19.
In the opening set, the teams battled back and forth with a match-high 10 ties.
Tied at 18, the Cougars jumped ahead for a 22-19 lead. Following a timeout, the Knights forced three attacking errors to tie the match at 22.
Two Knights attacking errors saw them fall behind, 24-22, before Houston outside hitter Kadi Kullerkann registered the game-winning kill to take the set, 25-23.
Senior defensive specialist Tracy Wright led the Knights with a season-best 18 digs while sophomore Mikaela Matthews turned away nine blocks to set a new career high.
“I was a little disappointed in our defensive effort,” Werneke said. “Initially I think that kind of cost us an opportunity, especially in the first game but also in the second. Our coaching staff challenged our kids a little bit and said, ‘Hey, we’re better than this defensively,’ and it was good for them to respond to that challenge. And as a result, we worked our way back into the match. We just didn’t quite complete the task.”
The Knights played Southern Methodist (16-8, 8-3) Friday in Dallas and battled hard in each set, but fell in straight sets.
In the third set, the Knights led, 3-2, but a 16-5 Mustangs run proved too much to overcome as Rutgers fell, 11-25.
The second set saw Rutgers take the early lead, 3-0, but errors hindered the Knights. The Mustangs formed an 8-0 run to go in front, 12-4.
Rutgers cut the deficit to 15-12 thanks to strong defensive play. But SMU outscored the Knights, 6-2, in the closing minutes to drop the set, 18-25.
In the opening set, the Knights found themselves ahead, 17-15, but strong offensive play from the SMU middle blocker Abbey Bybel tied the score tied at 22. Bybel finished the match with a .500 hitting percentage.
SMU finished with three straight kills to win the set, 25-22.
“I thought we competed really well,” Werneke said. “SMU is a very good team, very junior- and senior-laden with a lot of experience. This should boost our confidence a little bit to know we’re still competing even though were not coming away with the victories.”
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