September 22, 2018 | ° F

Rutgers hopes for first conference win in final home stand

Emotions will be high when the Rutgers volleyball team hosts its final home games of the season at the College Avenue Gym this weekend.

The Scarlet Knights will play Temple (17-9, 8-6) tonight before they host Memphis (13-15, 5-9) on Sunday. 

For senior defensive specialist Tracy Wright and senior outside hitter Brittany Bozzini, it will be the last home games of their college careers.

“It’s been a great four years and it’s going to be weird not seeing all the lovely faces every morning of my teammates,” Bozzini said.

The Knights (4-24, 0-14) are on a 14-game losing streak but hope the season can end positively.

Sunday will be Senior Day as the Knights prepare to honor Wright and Bozzini.

But the weekend holds more significance, as Rutgers looks for its first conference victory and first home win.

“You remember it, your last game ever playing at home,” Wright said. “Getting a good win, which could be the first one of the season in our conference, would definitely double the moment.”

Getting a win will be no easy task for the Knights, but Temple also enters the weekend on a losing streak.

The Owls beat the Knights in straight sets Oct. 20. Temple held Rutgers to only 34 total kills and an unimpressive .107 hitting percentage.

Despite Temple’s success against Rutgers, the Owls are coming off two road losses in Texas. Temple is 4-7 in road games this season.

Rutgers has reason for optimism despite playing a strong team.

“Temple’s a team that plays solid volleyball and they don’t make a lot of errors,” said assistant coach Rachel Refenes. “They are undersized so we hope to take advantage of their smaller block.”

Memphis was the only team picked to finish below the Knights in the AAC preseason coaches poll, but has exceeded expectations and currently sits seventh in the conference standings.

Rutgers lost to the Tigers on Oct. 18 on the road in a competitive four-set match. The first set went into extra points and every set that followed was tightly contested.

Sophomore outside hitters Alex Lassa and Megan Stephenson, along with junior outside hitter Sofi Cucuz, all finished with 10 kills or more. Lassa led the way, collecting 20.

Strong defensive play will be important for Rutgers in order to stop the Tigers’ dynamic offense. Memphis ranks fourth in the conference in kills and has three players with over 200 kills for the season.

The Knights have shown the ability to compete with teams all year, despite their poor record.

The team has been working on aggressive serving and increasing its intensity level with serve-receive drills and scrimmages to try to create a winning atmosphere.  

“We have to carry over what we did in practice this week,” Wright said. “Executing our offense, playing aggressive defense and just doing the little details in between plays.”

By Sean Stewart

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