Rutgers loses 2 Big Ten matchups over weekend
The Rutgers volleyball team hosted Ohio State and Maryland this past Friday and Saturday.
The Scarlet Knights (6-13, 0-6) put up a tough fight against both the Buckeyes (11-7, 2-4) and the Terrapins (12-6, 3-3) at the College Avenue Gymnasium, but ended up returning to the locker room with two more losses.
The match against Ohio State was an action-packed five sets with points and sets going back and forth between the teams. Against Maryland, there were a shorter three sets, but a close match overall.
Starting strong in the first set against the Buckeyes, Rutgers put 6 consecutive points on the board, which immediately scared Ohio State into a timeout.
Most notably, freshman middle blocker Merle Weidt looked like she has been on the Knights for four years already. Finishing the day with 15 kills and eight blocks, Weidt has adjusted quickly to the spot she's had to fill for junior Stasa Miljevic during her injury.
Rutgers consistently fought the Buckeyes' blocks by hitting right past them. The Knights finished the first set 25-18, and put a stamp on the game by gaining the last point with a kill from Weidt.
When the second set was starting to heat up, Weidt was finding her groove in this game. Ohio State closed the gap between the teams after a Rutgers comeback. Eventually gaining a lead over the Knights, the Buckeyes started to distance themselves from the home team.
Following a loss from the second set, the match was now tied 1-1. The third set had both teams equally matched. The points went back and forth between the teams, when at 13-13, Ohio State started to feel the pressure.
Senior outside hitter Sahbria McLetchie set Rutgers up in a good position with a kill to get the team to match point. Right behind her was junior middle blocker Jasmine Stackhouse, assisting in a block to obtain the final point in the third set.
In set four, there was challenge after challenge for plays, creating tension between the teams.
Much like the third set, the points were made evenly between the two teams. The set was grueling, which caused the Buckeyes to win 5 of the final 6 points and have another set win under their belt.
Before a tough loss, the energy in the team was falling in the fifth set. Ending at 15-9, the Knights put in for a close fight, but it wasn't enough.
“So much good happened tonight,” said head coach CJ Werneke. “In the Big Ten, you have to earn everything, nothing is going to be given to you and when you do earn it, it’s going to be that much sweeter.”
The next day, Rutgers had a game against the Terrapins. In set one, the team made it known that it wasn't going to let Friday night’s game get in its way of a win.
After a close first set, the final score was 27-25 for the Terrapins. Freshman right side Anastasiya Kudryashova was what kept the Knights alive by serving consistently and taking control with an early 6-2 lead.
Even the timeouts didn’t help the mindsets of Rutgers, when simple mistakes were starting to catch up to it. Maryland would eventually pull away from the Knights, picking up another win for the second set, and then again in the third.
“I liked the way we came back in set one, but we didn’t finish,” Werneke said. “One point leads to 5, because we’re so worried about it rather than just playing. Initially, I thought we did some good things, but again those moments weren’t long enough.”
Rutgers will be back at home on Wednesday to play the Iowa Hawkeyes (11-6, 3-3) at the College Avenue Gymnasium at 7 p.m.
"The more opportunities you create, you’re gonna figure it out. We’re still figuring it out, but we’re closer. We’re creating great opportunities that we just need to finish,” Werneke said.
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