Inconsistencies, injuries plague Knights’ season
What started as a season of excitement and promise turned into a year of frustration and disappointment for the Rutgers volleyball team.
Following the best season the Scarlet Knights had under head coach CJ Werneke’s leadership, Rutgers finished this year with an abysmal 5-27 record, including 1-17 in conference play.
With the chance of leaving a lasting impression before ascending into the Big Ten wasted, the Knights need to regroup in order to avoid a similar fate next year.
The loss of key players and leaders from last year’s team could be argued as being the cause of Rutgers’ present struggles, but Werneke does not support that idea.
“My expectations going into the year were as high if not higher than the year before,” Werneke said.
Instead, a series of unfortunate injuries and errors in late-game situations played large roles in Rutgers’ struggles for consistency.
“We started out our first two tournaments 3-4 with our group of starters and that was the last time our group of starters played together until our weekend against Temple and Memphis,” Werneke said.
During that weekend Nov. 22-24 the Knights played some of their best volleyball all season. They collected their only win against a team with a winning record in Temple (18-12, 9-9) and showed their young roster’s potential.
Freshman outside hitter Micaela Anderson was then named AAC Freshman of the Week, the first award given to the Knights all season.
Middle blockers freshman Lauren Cloyd and sophomore Mikaela Matthews also developed toward the end of the year to help complement junior Rachel Andreassian.
With all three returning next season along with sophomore setter Anna Sudbury, Rutgers brings back experience along the front.
“We’re going to have to really work together as a team,” Andreassian said. “After this season we learned a lot about each other as a team, so that will be good for us and we’ll just have to continue to push ourselves and each other.”
Though Rutgers’ record was disappointing, many individual Knights obtained career-best statistics.
Sophomore libero Ali Schroeter finished the season setting a new Rutgers record for total digs in a season with 544. Sophomore outside hitter Alex Lassa recorded a career-best 383 kills to lead the team, surpassing her 312 kills from last season.
The Knights lose just two seniors to graduation this offseason. Outside hitter Brittany Bozzini and defensive specialist Tracy Wright will depart.
In Rutgers’ second to last game against Cincinnati, Wright led the way with a career-high of 38 digs, good for second for a single match in the conference.
“It’s bittersweet,” Wright said. “It’s sad to know that I am not going to be able to play for these girls or this program anymore, but it’s time for me to move on.”