Rutgers falls in straight sets to Iowa, No. 8 Nebraska
It was another quiet plane ride back to the Banks for the Rutgers volleyball team this weekend.
Following a set win last week against nationally ranked Purdue, the Scarlet Knights (6-21, 0-14) fell back on their knees with straight set losses to Iowa and No. 8 Nebraska.
Rutgers has been unable to win a Big Ten match thus far this season and struggled to carry its aggressive playing style into this past weekend.
In Iowa City, Iowa on Friday, the Knights seemed off from the get-go, falling a hard fought first set, 16-25. Rutgers turned things around in the second set with a 13-9 lead, which included a 4-0 stint at the start of the set.
But, the Hawkeyes threw down a massive 7-0 run to take hold of the lead from the Knights before Rutgers called a timeout. From there on out, the Knights were unable to gain any traction on Iowa as the set closed out, 25-20.
The final set saw a 6-1 run for the Hawkeyes to put on a considerable gain against Rutgers, 8-3. The Knights reciprocated with a 4-0 jump, trailing Iowa by a single point. Iowa didn’t hold back to add 5 points, running away with the winning set to end in 25-17.
Continuing its dominance on defense, Rutgers was still able to outblock its opponent for the 16th time this season and remains nationally ranked at 20th with 2.68 blocks per set after its matches this past weekend. As much as their defensive sides are highlighted, the Knights have a lot of offensive work to do if they want to get more points up on the board.
Luckily for Rutgers, senior outside hitter Sahbria McLetchie showed the team who’s boss, recording a match-high 13 kills to lead the Knights’ attack department. Freshman middle Merle Weidt ended the match with 8 kills for a .636 attack clip and produced five blocks to carry Rutgers’s strong defense.
Additionally, the Knights were able to keep the ball alive thanks to junior Libero Karysa Swackenberg’s 10 digs — her 40th career double-digit dig count.
Even though Rutgers is used to overcoming loss quickly, the Knights failed to bring up their spirits when competing against the Cornhuskers on Saturday.
Struggling to score even 3 points in a row, Rutgers fell to Nebraska (14-25, 12-25, 13-25) in a loss surrounded by more than 8,000 fans in the Devaney Center. The Huskers hit the ground running in the first set with a pair of 4-0 stints to easily capture the first set.
With guns ablazing, the Knights managed to run tooth and nail with Nebraska for the lead at the start of the second set. Rutgers held on to a 6-5 lead before the Huskers stole the show in a defeating 11-1 run, which was too damaging for the Knights to overcome.
Fortunately for Rutgers, it was able to nab a small 3-0 stint after a timeout, but the Huskers followed that up with 5 consecutive points to win the set in a defining 25-12 total.
In the last set, the disheartened Knights continued to battle it out with Nebraska, but were left in the dust when the Huskers produced another commanding 9-1 run to seal Rutgers’ fate for the trip home.
McLetchie yet again proved her killer consistency with 8 kills and a team-high six digs to lead the Knights in both departments. Freshman outside hitter Tali Marmen and sophomore right side Beka Kojadinovic came through with 5 and 4 kills, respectively.
Not to mention, freshman setter Inna Balyko is a key player in Rutgers’ assist unit, throwing up a total of 47 assists over the two matches.
This isn’t the team's first rodeo, and is all too reminiscent of last season where the Knights lost all 20 of their conference games. Rutgers has only won a single Big Ten matchup, which was against Maryland back in 2015.
The Big Ten is a grueling conference with multiple top-25 teams in the nation setting foot on the Banks and the Knights have been the underdog for all too long.
After a disappointing weekend, Rutgers will have time to evaluate their performances in preparation for their upcoming competitions against No. 4 Illinois and Northwestern.
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