Rutgers heads back on road to Ohio State

This past Saturday night, the Rutgers volleyball team took a flight to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where it faced a program that had a 12-5 record on the season, with seven of those wins coming at Michigan’s home court heading into the match. 

The Wolverines (13-5, 6-2) sought to tear apart the many weaknesses that existed in the Scarlet Knights' (6-13, 0-8) roster, and after three straight sets of doing so, it was clear that this match could not have gone any worse for Rutgers, who took a three-set sweep for their 10th loss in a row.

Usually, the box score and stats do not tell the whole story of how a certain volleyball match went for a team. After this disastrous defeat, it is apparent that one of these statistics has some of the only numbers necessary to explain what went wrong for the Knights, who were blown out in each of the three contests by a final score of 25-10 in the first, 25-15 in the second and 25-16 in the third.

In the first set, Rutgers accumulated 23 total attacks against Michigan. Out of those 23 attacks, the Knights landed only 6 kills while committing a total of six errors, which was enough to give the program a .000 hitting percentage for the first contest. 

It goes without saying that this kind of attack percentage is not the key to a winning formula for any volleyball program, let alone one that hasn’t won a Big Ten match in over three years heading into the night. 

The second contest wasn’t any better. While Rutgers did show enough improvement to bring it to a .103%, it ultimately was not good enough, as the Wolverines, led by Paige Jones, landed a total of 16 kills and only three errors in the 28 total attacks. 

This helped them attain a .464% in the set, which was one of the main reasons why the efforts by sophomore setter Inna Balyko were not enough to keep up with a program that obliterated the Knights' defensive front. 

Balyko ended the night with a team-high seven digs and two blocks, yet couldn’t seem to slow down the school that would eventually take another victory in the third set with a .400 hitting percentage compared to Rutgers’ measly .037%.

With this loss, it's clear what the Knights need to work on before their Wednesday night match-up with Ohio State. In order for this volleyball program to beat the team that swept them at the Banks a little over a week ago, the defense will need to rebound from the calamitous performance that took place on Saturday night, and the offense will have to show up. 

While the Buckeyes (10-10, 3-5) are coming off a loss to Purdue and currently not enjoying the best season right now at a 10-10 record, they have certainly showed before that playing with them will be no easy task. 

Led on the offense by Mia Grunze, who has accumulated a total of 149 kills on the season, and on the defense by Kylie Murr, who is currently averaging 5.03 digs per set, Ohio State is going to show up to their home court ready to win. 

It's Rutgers head coach CJ Werneke’s job to help his players learn from their fatal mistakes committed in the match against Michigan to ensure that the same does not happen in Columbus on Wednesday night.

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

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