Rutgers drops both Big Ten home matches to Iowa, No. 14 Nebraska
The new Taraflex playing surface that the Rutgers volleyball team unveiled on Friday at the College Avenue Gymnasium gave it no advantage heading into the conference portion of its season as the Scarlet Knights dropped a pair of losses this past weekend in straight sets. Unable to defeat Big Ten opponents Iowa and No. 14 Nebraska, Rutgers now sits at 5-9 on the season.
The Taraflex floor has been used in the past 11 Summer Olympic Games and Rutgers is fortunate to be one of just 26 NCAA Division I programs that have installed this portable surface. The Taraflex surface is the only one in the Northeast region and one of nine used in the power-five conferences all over the country. Iowa and Nebraska are the only other teams in the Big Ten that have these floors, so there were no surprises to the newly established surface when both teams came to play.
Dominating the game from start to finish, Iowa’s .313 attack percentage greatly surpassed Rutgers’ season low of .012 to complete the matchup with scores of 25-17, 25-16 and 25-14. This is now the Hawkeyes' best start to a season since 1994 as they now stand at 12-2.
Leading the Knights for the 10th time this season is freshman opposite hitter Kamila Cieslik with nine kills. The rookie’s 19 total aces ranked her 50th in the country and fourth in the Big Ten before the game against Iowa, proving that there is potential for the team to improve over the next couple of years.
“I’m just here to make a difference and help the program grow,” Cieslik said. “For the team, I think we’re just trying to string together a few wins.”
Junior outside hitter Sahbria McLetchie followed closely behind Cieslik with seven kills. Additionally, sophomore setter Megan Sharkey recorded 20 assists and a team-high seven digs.
The next day, Rutgers struggled again to win a set against No. 14 Nebraska with straight set scores of 25-15, 25-20 and 25-11. The Knights played slightly better than the day before with a .135-hitting percentage but were outmatched by Nebraska’s .376.
Sophomore outside hitter Jillian Duffin got her chance to shine again since her last invitational with ten kills. Coming in second again on the offensive leaderboard was McLetchie with eight kills. Twenty-four assists came from Sharkey, putting her at a whopping total of 940 since the start of her freshman year. She inches toward Rutgers’ all-time leaderboard with No. 10 Jennifer DelGais’s 1,082 assists, which was set over two decades ago back in 1993.
Notching two opening losses to the start of the conference season, the Knights still have a long way to go before the season comes to a close at the end of November. Rutgers will have a chance to prove itself again as the team hosts Northwestern and Illinois next weekend.
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