Rutgers to head to Kansas City for Kangaroo Klassic
This weekend, the Rutgers volleyball team will head off to Kansas City, Missouri for the UMKC Kangaroo Klassic where it will face Northern Iowa (UNI), South Dakota and the host, University of Missouri—Kansas City.
Last year, the Kangaroos won the tournament with a 2-1 record, even though Northern Iowa had defeated them, 3-1. The Scarlet Knights have not participated in the Kangaroo Klassic in the past, but it seems as though the team will have yet another challenge ahead of themselves.
This season, the Kangaroos and South Dakota both have an overall record of 2-4 and a hitting percentage of .165 and .333, respectively. UMKC has lost its past three matches at the Cougar Classic in Edwardsville, Illinois and South Dakota dropped a pair at the Hawaiian Airlines Rainbow Wahine Classic in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Rutgers has a chance of rebounding from its losing streak to pick up a pair of wins against these two teams. It should be noted that the Knights hitting percentage is a solid .500, which is still better than the combined percentage of both UMKC and South Dakota.
The more challenging opponent for Rutgers will be Northern Iowa, the team that beat the winning Kangaroos last year at the same event. The Panthers go into the tournament with an overall record of 5-2 and demolished their last opponent in Northern Illinois, winning 3-0. Surprisingly, Northern Iowa only has a hitting percentage of .238, so the Knights have a good chance of upsetting UNI as well to take the tournament title.
Recently, Rutgers was ranked 12th in the nation with 1.98 service aces per set and 17th with 45 total aces, which places it in the lead in the Big Ten for total aces. Sophomore setter Megan Sharkey is second in the conference and 32nd nationally for her 12 aces and close behind is sophomore middle blocker Stasa Miljevic with 10 aces, placing her fifth in the Big Ten.
Head coach CJ Werneke commented on how last year’s errors were on the offensive side, but the Knights have since worked on this area, which is now ranking players like Sharkey and Miljevic in the top of the Big Ten.
“We’ve been doing a great job being aggressive from the service line,” Werneke said. “It has helped us accumulate points quickly and put together scoring runs.”
Last time out, Rutgers dropped a pair at the Seton Hall Classic, losing to both Buffalo, 3-2, and Seton Hall, 3-1, last weekend. In both matches, the Knights played with grit as every point was fought for, which should translate well into outperforming their opponents this weekend.
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