Rutgers drops 3 set contest to No. 4 Illinois
The Rutgers volleyball team fell in three straight sets to No. 4 Illinois on Saturday evening at the College Avenue Gymnasium.
With a running season block mark of 292, the Scarlet Knights (6-25, 0-18) broke the previous record of 291.5. They still have two more games left against No. 8 Wisconsin and No. 3 Minnesota next weekend.
The Fighting Illini (26-3, 15-3) dominated the first set, controlling a 9-0 run, which they held on for the rest of the set. Rutgers couldn’t score more than 2 points for a period of time, while Illinois won the set, 25-11.
Luckily, the Knights entered the second set with a completely different mindset and challenged the Illini to rack up 20 points. Rutgers went on an early 4-0 spurt to take over the lead at 9-6 before Illinois countered with a 6-1 stint of its own.
The Knights played tight with the Illini, remaining at least 3 points within their opponents' range. Illinois, on the other hand, struggled to escape Rutgers’ hold on them, but was able to close the set, 25-20, due to junior middle blocker Jasmine Stackhouse’s two attack errors.
The Knights didn’t seem deterred in the third set and had begun to challenge their opponents. Early on in that set, the Illini asserted their dominance with a commanding 6-1 stint but not without Rutgers fighting back with a 4-0 spurt to come within a point of their opponent in the middle of the set, 12-13.
For a moment, the Knights went back and forth with Illinois and eventually claimed the lead 18-17 thanks to a service ace from sophomore right side Beka Kojadinovic. Unfortunately, the Illini put together yet another solid 6-1 run to reclaim control of the set, 25-21, to close out the match.
Freshman setter Inna Balyko recorded more than 1,000 assists for the season, adding 25 assists against Illinois. She has averaged 9.38 per set for 1,013 career assists in her first complete season with Rutgers.
Balyko is already within striking distance of Jennifer DelGais' 1,082 assists record for No. 10 on program's all-time record board for career assists.
Stackhouse has tallied a total of 286 career blocks, putting her 10th in the record book, which surpasses former Knight Kathleen Madden’s 277 mark set in 1995. Next in Stackhouse’s range is No. 9 Addie Thiry with 294 blocks from 2004.
The Detroit, Mich. native set a school record for blocks in a season, registering 116 blocks for Rutgers this season.
Freshman outside hitter Tali Marmen had 6 kills and two blocks. Three Knights notched 5 kills including freshman middle blocker Merle Weidt’s, who had a .400 attack percentage, Stackhouse and freshman right side Anastasiya Kudryashova.
Next up for Rutgers will be its final two home matches of the season on Thanksgiving weekend. The Knights have one of the most difficult schedules for the final two games in the country, against two dominant Big Ten teams in the Badgers and the Golden Gophers.
Wisconsin has held on to a four-game winning streak with its most recent matches ending in straight sets against Ohio State and Maryland. Before playing either team, the Badgers sat 11th in the nation with a team hitting percentage of .276, led by Wisconsin’s Dana Rettke who ranks second in the nation with a .437 attack percentage.
Minnesota played the Buckeyes and the Terrapins over the weekend where the Gophers secured the Big Ten Championship over their win against Ohio State, 3-2, earning an automatic spot in this year’s NCAA Tournament.
Leading Minnesota’s .301 team attack percentage — third best in the nation — is Regan Pittman, who has shined as the Gophers’ dominant offensive player with a .402 mark, placing her 12th in the country.
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