The Rutgers volleyball team continues its season this Friday and Saturday with a series of away games against Iowa. After losing their last four games with just a single set won across both weeks, the Scarlet Knights (1-7, 1-7) look to regroup and bounce back this weekend.
After facing the No. 1 and No. 4 ranked teams in the nation in back-to-back weeks, Rutgers faces a less daunting opponent in the unranked Hawkeyes (1-7, 1-7), who themselves are coming off of back-to-back set losses against Ohio State.
In its last game, Iowa posted a 0.282 hitting percentage, which sets a new season-high for the team.
“We have to keep the focus wheel rolling and finish sets,” said Iowa's volleyball head coach Vicki Brown. “This second match (of the weekend), we needed our offense to get in rhythm. We saw that in set one and two, but we have to keep working to maintain the standard.”
The same advice can be applied to the Knights as well. On Friday, after losing by seven in the first set against Nebraska, Rutgers fought back and led at times in the second and third sets.
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, Rutgers was unable to continue its momentum, and subsequently lost the next three sets and the match.
Amid the defeats were some bright spots for the Knights. Junior setter Inna Balyko, who was earlier in the month the Big Ten Setter of the Week, continued her excellent play and had a team-high 26 assists on Friday. Senior right-side hitters Kamila Cieslik and Beka Kojadinovic led the offense once again, hitting at team-high percentages.
On the defensive side, junior outside hitter Anastasiia Maksimova collected three blocks and 10 digs, while also creating seven kills on the offensive end. As a whole, Rutgers continued its strong defensive play, with five different players each recording two or more blocks in the game.
The following day, Kojadinovic continued her strong play with a double-double, capturing 12 kills and 18 digs to lead the Knights. Backing her was Cieslik, who became the third Knight in double-digit kills with 11, and freshman libero/defensive specialist Madyson Chitty, who registered a season-high 16 digs.
Freshman middle blocker Tina Grkovic played well both offensively and defensively, earning 11 kills while also adding three blocks.
“I’m so proud of this team for putting (a) new image of Rutgers volleyball every single day game and every single game,” Kojadinovic said 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.”
Rutgers hasn’t had much success against the Hawkeyes in the past, going 1-7 in its last eight meetings. The lone win for the Knights came in the most recent contest between the two teams. This weekend Rutgers will look to repeat this performance, and walk away from Iowa with a victory.
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