Knights extend losing streak to 13 with pair of losses


The Rutgers volleyball team hosted two Florida teams in the College Ave. Gym this weekend, and head coach CJ Werneke hoped their long flights would leave them vulnerable to upsets.

It did not work out that way, as the Scarlet Knights (4-23, 0-13) lost to both South Florida and Central Florida to extend their losing streak to 13 games.

“We have to find a way to come out the gate a little stronger,” Werneke said. “In both games, our first set play was uninspiring play on our part — poor execution, not a lot of energy, just flat. And we have to find a way to change that moving forward.”

The Knights fell in four sets Sunday to South Florida (15-11, 9-3).

The fourth set saw both teams battle in the early stages. Tied at 11, the Bulls went on a 4-0 run, giving them some breathing room.

Rutgers hung tight and had trailed by only one point before USF scored back-to-back points to win, 25-22.

In the third set, freshman outside hitter Micaela Anderson led the Knights, providing five kills and solid play on the outside. Rutgers held the lead for most of the set and secured a hard-fought 25-22 win.

“We just challenged them on a couple different points, gave them a little bit more direct points of emphasis going into Game 3,” Werkene said. “And I thought they executed those three points at a really high level and as a result, we were able to put together a complete game.”

Rutgers jumped to a 3-0 lead in the second set, but outside hitter Erin Fairs led an 8-0 Bulls run and the Knights never recovered, dropping the set, 25-20.

USF controlled the first set against Rutgers, never relinquishing its lead as strong defensive play held the Knights to just 14 points in the set.

One bright spot was sophomore outside hitter Mikaela Matthews, who recorded six kills and a set-high .857 hit percentage.

Anderson, Matthews and junior outside hitter Sofi Cucuz each registered 10 kills in the match for one of the Knights’ more efficient offensive displays.

Rutgers fell in straight sets Friday to Central Florida (17-7, 8-3).

In the third set, the Knights created a 7-3 lead. UCF battled back to tie it at 14 before going on a 5-1 run, inspiring a Rutgers timeout call.

UCF proved too much to overcome as Rutgers dropped the set, 25-21. 

The Knights and UCF battled back in forth in the early stages of the second set.

Down 12-10, Rutgers went on a 6-1 run to gain a 16-13 lead. But a scoreboard malfunction seemed to kill the Knights’ momentum.

Following the 2-minute delay, UCF went on a 12-2 run to win the set, 25-18.

Rutgers came out sluggish in the first set. The Knights found themselves in an early 15-3 hole thanks to several offensive and defensive errors.

During a timeout, Werneke implored his team to show more intensity and fight. The team responded with a 14-7 run, but it proved too late as Rutgers fell, 25-21.

“These are two of the top-three teams in the conference, so I hope it boosts their confidence and let them know that if we take care of business and take care of the volleyball on our side that we can compete with everybody,” Werneke said.“Unfortunately only competing doesn’t get wins.”

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By Sean Stewart

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