Rutgers falls to Indiana in straight sets
After battling and losing to three Big Ten opponents at home, the Rutgers volleyball team was hoping for a win over the weekend against Indiana in Bloomington.
Unfortunately for the team, the Scarlet Knights (6-15, 0-8) were unable to recreate the same solid performance facing Iowa last week and fell to the Hoosiers (12-7, 3-5) in straight sets for their third time in a row.
Indiana didn’t waste any time in the first set, throwing down a massive 16-1 stint before Rutgers began to rack up some points on the board. Within the Hoosiers’ dominant start, the Knights had to take two timeouts to re-establish a game plan they could actually perform.
But, they weren't able to make up the deficit they had dug on themselves at the beginning and finished the first set 25-14.
In the second set, Rutgers was not letting up and fought for every point. But again, the Knights failed to grasp any sort of significant run to get ahead of the ball. Indiana was able to get the job done at the end with a 6-0 spurt to settle the score and take the second set to a disappointed Rutgers, 25-19.
Last but not least was the Knights’ good third set, producing the teams longest 6-1 stint to get ahead of Indiana by 1 point at 13-12. The Hoosiers took a timeout to throw down a solid 4-1 spurt before Rutgers took a time out of its own and brought itself back into the lead at 17-16. The Knights continued to drop points back and forth until Indiana ran home 5 points to win the final set 25-23.
Posting a Big Ten career high in kills and leading Rutgers’ attack was freshman outside hitter Anastasiia Maksimova. Behind Maksimova were classmate middle Merle Weidt and sophomore right side Beka Kojadinovic, producing 4 kills each.
Freshman setter Inna Balyko registered 23 assists and six blocks to lead the Knights in both departments.
Last season, sophomore right side Kamila Cieslik was a monster on court in kills and service aces. Nowadays, Cieslik is taking her turn in dig territory with a season-high 10 digs. Following Cieslik was junior libero Karysa Swackenberg, who is Rutgers' most consistent in digs, and Balyko with nine a piece.
As a team, the Knights are ranked 11th in the country for their blocking average of 2.9 blocks per set, having recorded their 13th double-digit block count for the season. But, Rutgers hit a Big Ten low with a .135 hitting percentage as of 2018.
Looking at the Knights’ Big Ten matches, almost all were lost in straight sets, except the matches against Ohio State and Michigan State. Rutgers’ performance at each game not only shows its inconsistencies playing each opponent, but how difficult the Big Ten conference truly is.
The Knights are going to have to find a way to step up their game and assert themselves as competitors in the conference, not participants.
Hands down, there is a future for Rutgers since the underclassmen have really shown themselves on the court. The top performers at this past game against Indiana were predominantly underclassmen, which shows the potential that the Knights have in future seasons.
Despite this potential, Rutgers needs to put on stellar performances this season and will have another chance to redeem itself when it plays Indiana on the Banks in two weeks.
For now, there’s not much the Knights can do for this week, but try and get as many points on the board as possible. Rutgers will have to be at its best to compete against No. 9 Penn State for two matches.
The first match will occur in State College, Pa. on Wednesday, then the Knights will return back to New Jersey to face the Nittany Lions at the College Avenue Gymnasium on Saturday for a Blackout match.
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