August 18, 2019 | 81° F

Rutgers closes out road trip with back to back wins

Photo by Casey Ambrosio |

The Rutgers volleyball team picked up its second and third wins of the season, as the team closed out its road trip with victories over Lafayette and Rider.

The Scarlet Knights (3-4, 0-0) boosted their confidence, having dropped the first three games at the Molten Classic in California. The team has recovered to win its last 3 out of 4 games.

Aside from its 3-2 loss to undefeated Lehigh in the second game of the Crosstown Tournament, Rutgers had not dropped a set.

The Knights edged the Leopards in the first game 25-23, 25-18, and 25-19. Rutgers’ stellar offense dictated the whole game — the team hit .442, led by sophomore right sider Beka Kojadinovic’s 12 kills. 

Freshmen outsider Anastasiia Maksimova and right sider Anastasiya Kudryashova had a career-high 9 kills against Lafayette. Rutgers also served the ball well, finishing with nine aces to the Leopards one.

On the defensive side, the Knights continued their trend of out-blocking their opponents, as the team finished with eight blocks compared to Lafayette's seven.

The Leopards were most aggressive in the second set — they clawed their way back to tie seven times with two lead changes. 

Rutgers’ freshman setter Inna Balyko dished out 34 assists, contributing to the team’s high-powered offensive game. She finished with a team-high 10 digs and recorded her third double-double in her first season On the Banks.

In the final game of the tournament, the Knights defeated the Broncs 25-21, 25-17, and 25-20 in a closer matchup.

This time, Rutgers’ offense was led by junior outsider Sahbria McLetchie’s 13 kills and 13.5 points. The former Virginia Commonwealth University transfer finished the game with a career-high .706 hit percentage and now has the second highest hitting percentage ratio in school history since the inception of the 25-point system. 

Defensively, the Knights out-blocked Rider 8 to 7. Junior middle blocker Stasa Miljevic led the team with a game-high three blocks. Balyko finished with a game-high 38 assists and 10 digs, contributing to her second consecutive double-double. 

The first set was perhaps the tightest of the game. The Broncs tallied 11 kills, five less than Rutgers, but the Knights’ attack carried them to win the set. The last 10 points were from a kill or block, with their attacking ratio above .300. 

Rider jumped onto an early 4-3 lead in the second set. Kudryashova led the team on a 5-0 run that included a kill, an assist and a service ace to take a commanding lead over the Broncs. Sophomore outsider Yana Kamshilina recorded two aces, as Rutgers ended the set with a 6-2 lead. 

The Knights also shut down Rider’s scoring efforts, as Rutgers spearheaded a 4-0 run in the third set when the team led 15-11. Junior middle blocker Jasmine Stackhouse’s 5 kills in the last set added to her career-tying 11 kills in the game. She also notched a career-high .667 attack ratio.

Maksimova was still a presence on the court, tying her previous nine kills against Lafayette and led the game with 23 total attacks against the Broncs.

Knights head coach CJ Werneke praised Maksimova’s non box-score statistics, as she is transitioning well into the offense. Werneke also acknowledged the team’s success as a unit this early in the season. 

“We’re continuing to learn about ourselves, figuring out our strengths, and playing to those strengths,” Werneke said after the conclusion of the tournament. “There’s a sign of development and investment, which good teams need.”

The team will host the Rutgers Invitational at the College Avenue Gym from Sept. 7-8, a non-conference tournament, for the second time since 2016. The field features MEAC's Howard, and the AAC’s Tulane and Navy. 

For updates on the Rutgers volleyball team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

Jake Schmied

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