The Rutgers women's volleyball team continued its season this Friday and Saturday with a series of home games against Nebraska. After losing both games last week against Wisconsin, the Scarlet Knights (1-7, 1-7) were unable to get back on track and fell on both occasions to the No. 4 Cornhuskers (6-0, 6-0).
Although the losses were the closest since the first time Rutgers played Nebraska after joining the Big Ten, the Knights were unable to gain the upper hand on their opponents and conceded defeat to their second-straight ranked opponent.
On Friday, Rutgers fell in straight sets to the Cornhuskers. After losing by 7 in the first set, the Knights fought back and led at times in the second set, ultimately winding up losing by just 4 points. In the third and final set, Rutgers kept the game close but was unable to overcome the Nebraska, losing 25-19 and conceding the match.
The following day, the Knights managed to take the first set from the Cornhuskers, winning 25-22 to open the contest. As the match wore on, though, Rutgers was unable to capitalize on its momentum and, subsequently, lost the next three sets and the match.
The Knights lost the second and third sets both at 25-14, leaving the Nebraska at 6-0 to start the year and handing Rutgers its fourth straight loss.
Despite the defeats, junior setter Inna Balyko, who was named Big Ten Setter of the Week on Feb. 1, continued her excellent play on Friday and had a team-high 26 assists. That same game, senior right-side hitters Kamila Cieslik and Beka Kojadinovic led the offense once again, registering 10 and nine kills respectively.
On the defensive side, junior outside hitter Anastasiia Maksimova garnered three block assists and 11 digs on Friday, while also creating seven kills on the offensive end. As a whole, the Knights continued their strong defensive play, using their momentum after holding the No. 1 Badgers (8-0, 8-0) last week to a season-low 0.293 hitting percentage, to have five different players each record two or more blocks in this game.
Similar to the night before, Saturday’s contest proved just as dynamic, with 25 ties and nine lead changes through the four sets. Kojadinovic continued her strong play with a double-double, capturing 12 kills and 18 digs to lead the team. Backing her was freshman libero/defensive specialist Madyson Chitty, who registered a season-high 16 digs, and Cieslek, who was the third Knight with double-digit kills at 11.
Grkovic played well both offensively and defensively, earning 11 kills, while also adding three block assists. As a team, Rutgers had 66 digs, the second-most ever accomplished by the team in a Big Ten matchup.
Though they faced defeat this week, the Knights will play again next week against Iowa, which is coming off back-to-back straight-set losses against Ohio State.
“I’m so proud of this team for putting a new image of Rutgers volleyball every single day and every single game,” said Kojadinovic following the match. “We’re about to show everyone in this league that we’re so much better than … what we used to be as a program.”
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