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Rutgers drops 2 conference matches at home

This past weekend, the Rutgers volleyball team had an opportunity to come away with a statement win against fellow Big Ten rival Ohio State, along with an equally important victory the following night against Maryland. 

These matches, though competitive they were at times, left the Scarlet Knights (6-11, 0-6) with nothing but two losses and a feeling of disappointment. Rutgers was defeated in both of its contests to lower its season record to five games less than .500.

On Friday night, the Buckeyes (9-8, 2-3) came with a determination to continue the dominance that has been displayed against the Knights throughout the five years the teams have opposed each other in inter-conference play. 

They left with a 3-0 set sweep that consisted of commanding play by players on both sides of the ball.

Once the night had commenced, Ohio State took a commanding 4-0 lead and did not allow Rutgers to score until sophomore outside hitter Anastasiia Maksimova put her team on the board with 2 points. 

But, this is as close as they would get to taking the lead, as the Buckeyes took advantage of the sloppy play displayed by the Knights to take the first set by a final score of 25-14.

“We had some disciplinary issues that we had to handle and our serving and passing game just didn’t equate tonight in that first set," said head coach CJ Werneke.

For much of the first contest, Rutgers had a multitude of missed opportunities on defense and attack errors on offense showing for it.

When the second set began, to much contrast of the previous bout, the Knights actually displayed their competence. After falling behind 2-0, they held the lead for much of the contest, only surrendering it at the mid-point of the set with the score tied 14-14. 

Ohio State would win the second set by a final score of 25-23. 

The third set was much of the same story. Despite attacks from senior middle blocker Jasmine Stackhouse and sophomore outside hitter Tali Marmen, who ended the night with 5 and 6 kills, respectively, Rutgers was defeated 25-18 in the final contest. 

The Knights blew another opportunity to advance their season record, and ultimately paid for it as the Buckeyes took the sweep and improved to a 10-1 all-time record against Rutgers since 1971.

“We need to implement a game-plan for Maryland," Werneke said. "And we have a short turnaround, so we need to reflect a little bit but then move forward.”

That was certainly true, as the Terrapins (10-8, 2-4) entered Saturday night with a 9-7 overall record on the season and a 1-3 ratio in the Big Ten. The Knights had to come into the match with a different strategy if they were going to stop the repetitive nature of their season from continuing. 

Rutgers would go on to lose 3-1 on Saturday night.

When watching the first set, it looked as if the result for the weekend was about to have a much more positive tone to it. 

After falling behind 1-0 on the first set, the Knights played extremely well to stay with Maryland from the dawn of the set to the end of it, and eventually took the game win by a final score of 25-23. 

Marmen was a big reason why, as her contribution led her team to capture their only set victory of the night. 

As the second set started, it looked as if it was in reach. After an 8-7 Terrapins lead was diminished by their own attack error, Rutgers took the lead on a Marmen kill and kept it until the score was knotted up once again at 12-12. 

From there, the score was often back and forth until the second set was ultimately won by Maryland 25-23. 

Sophomore middle blocker Merle Weidt ended the contest with a .533 hitting percentage on 15 total attacks. She seemed to do everything in her power to give the Knights the opportunity to do so, even if that opportunity was ultimately squandered once Rutgers was compelled to call a timeout after falling behind early in the third set with the Terrapins, leading by five at an 8-3 score. 

The Knights certainly needed it, as Maryland laid down kill after kill. 

Sophomore setter Inna Balyko’s six blocks and eight digs could not seem to prevent the lethal Terrapins offense from unleashing itself even after the timeout, as Maryland, thanks to sharp play from seemingly all of the women on the court, took the set victory with a 25-19 final score. 

Rutgers went into the fourth set down 2-. With the night quickly slipping away from Werneke and his team, the Knights’ competitive play throughout the match needed to translate into more effective results on both sides of the ball, if this school was to have any hope of re-writing the script that was already being composed for them on Saturday night.

The fourth meeting between the two programs certainly provided that hope early, as Rutgers pulled ahead with a 1-0 lead. The Terrapins used a 6-0 run towards the end of the bout to eventually win it by a final score of 25-11.

“We’re going to take this week to practice even harder,” Marmen said. “And work through those things that were hard in this game.” 

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

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