Rutgers drops two more contests to Northwestern, Illinois
Another pair of losses haunted the Rutgers volleyball team at the College Avenue Gym this past weekend as the Scarlet Knights (5-11, 0-4) failed to outperform Big Ten opponents Northwestern (11-5, 1-3) and Illinois (12-3, 3-1). All four of Rutgers’ conference matches this season have been straight set losses, and the Knights have now accumulated five consecutive losses.
Northwestern was able to log its first Big Ten win against Rutgers as the team logged a .485 attack percentage over the Knights’ .162, a season high for a Big Ten match. The first set was extremely tight with the lead being passed six times for 14 tie scores, but Northwestern surged ahead to take the first set (25-19). Northwestern continued its momentum to take the second and third sets, 25-13 and 25-12 respectively.
Freshman opposite hitter Kamila Cieslik led Rutgers with 10 kills and an ace, followed by junior outside hitter Sahbria McLetchie with seven kills and a block. For the ninth time this season, sophomore libero Karysa Swackenberg’s seven digs led the Knights’ backline.
Illinois has been in the AVCA Top 25 poll on multiple accounts and is on fire this season, giving Rutgers a very difficult time in rebounding from the loss against Northwestern. The Illini took the lead at the start of each set without giving the Knights a chance to change up the lead, winning by set scores of 25-11, 25-16, 25-18 with a hitting percentage of .394 over Rutgers’ .101.
That time around Cieslik recorded five kills and two blocks, but trailed behind McLetchie’s 11 kills, an individual high in Big Ten matches this season, in addition to one block. In the second set, McLetchie clipped a .727 hitting percentage, which was a season-high for any of the Knights.
Sophomore setter Megan Sharkey totaled 41 assists this past weekend for a career total of 981. With just 19 away from 1,000 assists, Sharkey is quickly closing the gap to get on the Rutgers all-time leaderboard, beginning with No. 10 Jennifer DelGais’s 1,082 assists set in 1993. Sharkey is only a sophomore and could very well make her way up to one of the top positions on the leaderboard. It is no longer a question of if Sharkey will get within the top ten, but how high up she can go to take the all-time leaderboard in assists.
The Knights will finally leave the College Avenue Gym to play yet another pair of Big Ten opponents in Maryland and Ohio State this weekend. Rutgers will first head off to College Park, Maryland before making its way over to Columbus, Ohio.
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