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Rutgers loses Big Ten opener in straight sets

Coming into its match against Michigan, the Rutgers volleyball team and head coach CJ Werneke and came out with a purpose, looking to emulate some of the success that had been enjoyed earlier in the season when a three-match losing streak was snapped with a six-match winning streak. 

But, after a couple of slow starts and back-and-forth play between the two schools, the Scarlet Knights (6-6, 0-1) were unable to do that and left their home court with a defeat against the 30th ranked team in the nation and a 6-6 record on the season.

The first set, with Rutgers looking to start off on a strong foot after being defeated in the previous two contests against Howard and American, was in contrast a very weak showing for the Knights, who were unable to slow down the fiery offense that had been displayed by the Wolverines (8-3, 1-0) throughout the entirety of the night. 

Rutgers had been defeated by a score of 25-14, and was looking forward to a bounce-back effort that would hopefully come in the oncoming sets.

The second meeting of the two schools consisted of just that, with the Knights taking the lead at multiple times during the set. Sophomore outside hitter Anastasiia Maksimova, who had previously been named the Rutgers Invitational Most Valuable Player just two weeks ago, was a big reason why. 

Her standout play of tallying three aces, a career-high, was one of the main reasons the Knights stayed competitive with Michigan throughout the whole of the second set. This proved to not to be enough, as Rutgers couldn’t come out on top after the back-and-forth play and fell into a 2-0 hole with a 25-23 set loss.

Though this loss undoubtedly put them in a tough position, the Knights were hoping to carry over some of the success that existed in it into the third set, where they would have to battle their way out of the very deep hole that was dug by them.

Although they two teams did fight, it seemed as if their attempts to do so were futile once the Wolverines come out with a 7-0 lead against a team that just could not find its rhythm despite having shown its potential in the second set. 

Rutgers lost 25-14 and took the sweep against Michigan, with its record dropping the team down to a .500 winning percentage on the season and a much lower one than that against teams in the Big Ten. 

As it is with all the Knights volleyball matches, Rutgers stood at the end of the night with the pride of having put forth a respectable effort against its foe, and stood arm-in-arm while the alma mater echoed throughout the College Avenue Gymnasium. 

With this dignity, the Knights look to take what was learned from the loss and apply it to their next match this Saturday against No. 5 Penn State, in what will undoubtedly be another tough match in the gauntlet of a schedule that Rutgers has.

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

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