Rutgers continues to pursue first Big Ten win against Michigan, Michigan State
This time around the Rutgers volleyball team will return home to the College Avenue Gymnasium to play against Michigan and Michigan State over the weekend. The Scarlet Knights (5-13, 0-6) have lost their past six conference matches in straight sets but have been looking for the small wins during the matches to help them improve as the season moves forward.
As a team, Rutgers achieved Big Ten highs this season, including eight team blocks and 37 total digs in the match against Maryland, as well as five service aces during the Ohio State match.
At Maryland, middle blocker Stasa Miljevic and freshman opposite hitter Kamila Cieslik both contributed four blocks each and individual Big Ten highs, while Cieslik’s 11 digs also tied her individual Big Ten high for this season.
At Ohio State, the Knights’ five service aces came from Miljevic’s two aces, in addition to Cieslik, junior outside hitter Sahbria McLetchie and sophomore setter Megan Sharkey. Sharkey also managed to accumulate 1,006 career assists which put her only 78 assists away from No. 10 Jennifer DelGais’s 1,082 on the Rutgers’ all-time leaderboard.
From the beginning of the season to this week’s upcoming matches, Cieslik and Sharkey have both been in the Big Ten rankings for service aces and assists, respectively. Cieslik ranks third, averaging 0.41 aces per set, while Sharkey sits at 12th with an average of 7.81 assists per set.
Looking at this week’s Big Ten opponents, Michigan fumbled in its last two matches, having logged a pair of losses to Iowa and No. 6 Minnesota, which left it for the first time this season.
The Wolverines have dropped out of the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) coaches poll, but they are still receiving votes in the poll and sit 36th nationally in the latest NCAA RPI. Michigan has yet to win an away match, but in past seasons they have held a 3-0 all-time record over the Knights.
No. 10 Michigan State has had a stellar conference season, having only lost to No. 4 Nebraska. The Spartans stand 13th in the NCAA RPI and 10th in the AVCA coaches poll. Individually, Michigan State’s Alyssa Garvelink is currently eighth in the nation and second in the Big Ten with an average of 1.58 blocks per set.
Additionally, the Spartans’ head coach Cathy George has accumulated 609 career wins, which places her 19th nationally out of all active Division I coaches. George is one of three current Big Ten coaches that have recorded more than 600 wins.
On Friday, Rutgers will take on Michigan before playing against Michigan State the following day at the College Avenue Gymnasium.
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