Rutgers wins 1st Big Ten match since 2015

The last time the Rutgers volleyball team won a match against a school in the Big Ten was on Oct. 21, 2015. That was more than four years ago. 

The series against Northwestern on Sunday afternoon changed all of that.

Starting off the event, the Scarlet Knights (7-14, 1-9) fell behind 1-0 to the Wildcats (9-13, 0-10) on an attack error by sophomore outside hitter Tali Marmen. Though this was unfortunate and put Rutgers in an early hole, it ultimately did not amount to much chaos for the Knights as they were able to string together a 5-0 run immediately after. 

The rest of the set displayed a sort of previously non-existent ferocity for Northwestern, but back-and-forth play dominated the rest of the contest with the score staying close for much of it. The set only ended once the Wildcats' Nia Robinson attack error gave Rutgers the 2-point lead needed to win the set, ending the contest by a final score of 27-25.

While this was assuredly an exciting occurrence for the Knights' head coach C.J. Werneke and his players, there was a milestone achieved in the first set by a Rutgers player that can be considered to be even more worthy of an ovation. 

Senior middle blocker Jasmine Stackhouse, the only player to have competed with some of the women that captured the first-ever conference win for the program in 2015, took over sole possession as the all-time leader in block assists for the Knights as her two in the first set contributed to the 336 that she has compiled in her four-year career. It was a long time coming for Stackhouse, as she is the longest-tenured player in the program.

Whether it was this achievement that motivated this volleyball program, or the fact that all the practice was seemingly starting to turn into some positive results for the team, what followed up this first set win for Rutgers was another one in the second contest, with the Knights taking the bout by a final score of 26-24. 

Marmen’s 3 kills in the set contributed to a team-high 14 on the day, and helped the Rutgers offense, led by sophomore middle blocker Merle Weidt, capture an important 2-0 lead to start off the match for Sunday afternoon.

As the day wore on, it seemed as though all of the excitement and anticipation had ultimately been for nothing as Northwestern stormed back in the third set to take the contest by a final score of 25-16. The Knights were falling back into their old ways, with a number of self-inflicted attack errors to show for it. 

Their struggles continued into the fourth set as well, though they did find their footing as they kept the score close for much of the bout. While the Wildcats took the set by a final score of 25-23, it looked that Rutgers was back to playing at a competitive level for the afternoon.

They confirmed that theory in the fifth and final set of the match.

The Knights took the 15-10 set victory and did what hadn’t been done since 2015: They won a conference match. 

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

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