Rutgers falls to No. 7 Minnesota on road

Three days after it opposed the No. 2-ranked school in the nation, the Rutgers volleyball team traveled to Minneapolis Saturday night to face No. 7 Minnesota in what was going to be another tough battle for head coach CJ Werneke and his players. Looking for their first Big Ten win on the season, the Scarlet Knights (6-9, 0-4) hoped to finally capture the victory that had been eluding them all year. 

After a 3-1 match loss, the feeling was much of the same that had been experienced previously in the season after similar defeats.

The first set of the night began with a 3-0 run by the Golden Gophers (10-2, 4-0) that was unexpectedly followed by very proficient Rutgers play to keep them within grasp of the lead at a 6-5 score. Though as satisfying as this competent play was, the talent of the women on the nationally-ranked Minnesota team pulled ahead in a 5-0 run that could not be followed up. 

This was despite many attempts by sophomore setter Inna Balyko and senior middle blocker Jasmine Stackhouse, who led their team with 44 assists and 13 kills, respectively.

Once the second set began, the Knights were looking to re-focus with some help from senior libero Karysa Swackenberg, who would certainly have a positive defensive contribution. Swackenberg, who ended the night with a team-high 17 digs, surely assisted Rutgers, but could not help it hold a 14-13 lead that was followed by a few costly attack errors by her teammates.

To the surprise of the 5,700 fans in attendance, the result of the third set was much different than the previous two as the Knights trailed only once in a 25-19 victory over the Gophers that consisted of play by sophomore outside hitter Anastasiia Maksimova and junior right side hitter Beka Kojadinovic. 

The three women ended the set with three straight kills, and after an attack error by Minnesota’s Alexis Hart, Rutgers was now at just a 2-1 deficit heading into the fourth contest.

But, the taste of success for the Knights did not last long, as Werneke’s team was outplayed by their opponent after a total of 18 kills propelled the Gophers to a 3-1 win on the night that would improve their record to 4-0 against Big Ten teams.

With their next match being this Friday against Ohio State, Rutgers has a big opportunity to show everyone why it has been able to stick with the nationally ranked teams it has faced this season, and certainly will be able to do that in the statement game coming up.

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

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