Remaining games give RU challenge
With two games remaining for the Rutgers volleyball team, it is hard to predict if the squad will taste victory again this season.
All the promise and ability the Scarlet Knights displayed Friday in their home win against Temple vanished in less than two days during their loss Sunday against Memphis.
What is even more surprising is that the Owls (18-10, 9-7) have a better record than the Tigers (14-16, 6-10).
The Knights have shown time and again they have the ability to compete. They shocked conference-leading Louisville (21-7, 16-0) with a first-set win in their match back in late October.
But pulling out consistent performances has been a struggle all season long, something head coach C.J. Werneke can attest to.
“We put a pretty complete match together Friday against Temple and we told them that,” Werneke said. “We told them why and how, and that’s the type of team we’re capable of being. The trick is maintaining and replicating that, and we haven’t been able to do that.”
Against Temple, the Knights collected 62 kills while boasting a .260 hit percentage.
Defensively, they held the Owls to 38 kills and had 11 total blocks thanks to the strong net play of sophomores Mikaela Matthews and Anna Sudbury, along with freshman Lauren Cloyd.
Rutgers had three players with double-digit kills and looked like a completely different team than it had been all season.
Against Memphis, the Knights reverted to old habits. Their offense was not nearly as effective, and defensively they allowed 54 kills with a .385 hit percentage.
After falling behind by two sets, like they have many times this season, their attempts at a comeback failed.
But despite the patterns of inconsistency that have plagued the Knights all season long, there are clear signs of progress being made.
The victory against Temple was the team’s first conference win of the season and first win against a team with a record above .500.
The win also snapped a 14-game losing streak, and if only for a moment, took a weight off the team’s shoulders.
With two games left in a disappointing season, Rutgers can now focus on just playing volleyball.
“You get a sigh of relief,” Werneke said of ending the losing streak. “But you have to analyze why and how we came about that win and try and replicate it.”
The Knights prepare to play Cincinnati (2-28, 2-14) tomorrow before heading to Kentucky on Friday to play the Cardinals again.
The Bearcats broke their own 22-game losing streak against the Knights on Oct. 27 at the College Ave. Gym, so returning the favor could end the season positively.
“We have two matches left,” Werneke said. “That’s two more opportunities to end on a good note.”
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