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Rutgers volleyball loses 2nd straight series

Senior right-side hitter Kamila Cieslik ended the series with 14 kills. – Photo by

The Rutgers volleyball team lost its second consecutive series this weekend, falling to Northwestern. This past Friday, the Scarlet Knights (0-2, 0-2) were unable to put up more than 18 points against the Wildcats (2-0, 2-0) in any set.

The following night, Northwestern repeated this performance, as Rutgers was unable to get past the Wildcats' front throughout the game. The Knights kept in accordance with their previous history against Northwestern, having gone 1-9 against the Wildcats over the past 10 matches.

Friday's contest marked the debut of five Rutgers student-athletes, including junior middle blocker Shealyn McNamara, who finished with six kills. As a whole, the Knights' offense was led by the experienced senior right-side hitters Beka Kojadinovic and Kamila Cieslik, who ended with eight and seven kills, respectively.

On the defensive side, freshman libero Madyson Chitty made her debut with 12 digs, playing alongside freshman middle blocker Tina Grkovic, who ended with two blocks.

Though Rutgers was able to jump out ahead twice in the Friday game, Northwestern capitalized on a number of errors by the Knights to win in straight sets. The match marked the debut of new Rutgers head volleyball coach Caitlin Schweihofer, who was chosen for the position just 10 days prior.

As head coach at Northeastern the season prior, Schweihofer's Huskies captured their best hitting percentage since 2008 and earned three all-conference honors while finishing the season ranked among the top three in their conference in hitting percentage, kills, digs and assists.

"We welcome Caitlin to the Rutgers Athletics family," said Director of Athletics Pat Hobbs. "Caitlin has elevated programs and orchestrated turnarounds at each stop throughout her career, and as much as her teams have succeeded on the court, she has always placed a high priority on academics and overall student-athlete development. We are excited to bring her aboard as we compete in the best volleyball league in the nation."

On Saturday, the Wildcats repeated their performance of the night prior, defeating the Knights in straight sets once again. Kojadinovic and Cieslik remained the offensive spark plugs for Rutgers, finishing with seven kills apiece. Kojadinovic led the Knights on defense as well, garnering eight digs and supplementing Grkovic's three blocks. 

Although Rutgers lost both matches, one student-athlete inched closer to history. Junior setter Inna Balyko is perhaps just a game away from reaching the 2,000 career assist mark, as her 14 assists on Friday and 19 on Saturday push her total to 1,981. She currently ranks seventh for all-time assists as a Knight.

With these losses, Rutgers drops to the bottom of the Big Ten. The team will look to bounce back next week in a difficult matchup against Indiana.

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

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