Versatility on offense gives hope for Rutgers
If one walked into the College Ave. Gymnasium at the start of the Rutgers volleyball team’s third set Sunday against South Florida, they would not think the team has lost 13 straight games.
The Scarlet Knights (4-23, 0-13) outplayed the Bulls (15-11, 9-3) for large portions of the third and fourth sets, led by a balanced attack and solid defensive rotations.
Rutgers lost the match, but the team finally began to unlock its offensive potential.
Three players collected double-digit kills for the Knights — a feat Rutgers performed in just six games this season.
Sophomore outside hitter Alex Lassa, who leads the team with 340 kills, was not in double digits, a sign the Knights attack is becoming more versatile.
“I think a lot is the attacker’s execution against setting decisions, being able to pass, being able to dig and also working hard in transition,” said assistant coach Lindsey Lee. “It’s definitely a confidence booster to start to see the numbers show all their hard work and I think moving forward that’s what were going to start seeing out of them.”
Junior outside hitter Sofi Cucuz, sophomore middle blocker Mikaela Matthews and freshman outside hitter Micaela Anderson all recorded double digits, as all finished with 10 kills each.
Matthews is known for her defensive contributions, as she plays the position of middle blocker. The San Diego native is second on the team in blocks behind junior middle blocker Rachel Andreassian and third in the conference with 1.24 blocks per set.
But Matthews’ offense began to hit its stride. She tied her career high in kills against USF and collected six kills on the first set for a .857 hit percentage.
“Offensively, I made sure I was up all the time and tried to be loud even if I wasn’t getting set to try and pull the defense of the other team and really just try to be a good teammate,” Matthews said.
Anderson’s strong performance against the Bulls also played a large role in the team avoiding a straight-set sweep.
Her five kills were critical to the team winning the third set. Anderson finished the game with an impressive .269 hitting percentage.
Anderson started the season with an impressive performance Aug. 31 against Robert Morris, including a career-high 22 kills. But since then, Anderson struggled to get on the floor as she dealt with injury.
The freshman is starting to gain some valuable experience.
“It definitely took some time,” Anderson said. “I had a little downfall in the middle of the season, but you just have to keep pushing and have confidence in yourself.”
The Knights showed glimpses of their potential, and now it’s all about producing on the court. Lee believes putting the team in real game scenarios during practice can help.
“We’re putting them in the situations and hoping at some point it starts to register and they start to learn,” Lee said.
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