The Rutgers volleyball team continued its season this past Wednesday and Saturday with a series of games against Maryland, with one game away and the following game at home. After falling on both occasions last week against Purdue, the Scarlet Knights (4-14, 4-14) bounced back and won both matches against the Terrapins (4-14, 4-14).
On Wednesday, Rutgers beat the Terrapins in a series of close sets. The first set saw Maryland commit 11 attack errors but also score 10 blocks defensively. Late in the set, the Knights rallied and went on a 9-4 run to close out the Terrapins 25-16. The next set was the exact opposite, with Maryland beating Rutgers 25-16 behind a 6-0 run that won the set.
The Knights dominated the third set of the contest, grabbing an early lead and never letting go. The team hit at a match-best 0.314 percentage and held its opponents to just a 0.061 percentage. Senior right-side hitter Beka Kojadinovic scored five kills to give Rutgers the set win.
The final set was the closest, with six ties and three lead changes. The Terrapins came out hot early and led the Knights 16-11 when a 6-1 Rutgers run tied the score at 17 apiece. The Knights closed out the set on a 5-1 run and, with it, won the match.
The following day was a similar contest, as Rutgers took the match in four close sets behind double-figure points from three Knights. The first set was a close contest, knotted at 23-23 before a Maryland error and Kojadinovic kill closed it out. The second set was just as tight, with neither team able to lead by more than 2 until the closing moments when the Terrapins went on a run to win.
Rutgers jumped out early in the third set with a 6-0 lead and held on to win the round. The fourth and final round saw the Knights hit at a match-best 0.368 percentage. A 7-1 run, supported by six kills by Kojadinovic, had Rutgers leading 20-10. The Knights went on to close out the set, and with it, the match.
On Wednesday, Kojadinovic scored a team-high 13 kills to go along with 13 digs and was helped by junior outside hitter Anastasiia Maksimova, who gathered a career-best 14 digs and four aces. Junior setter Inna Balyko paced the team with 40 assists and 13 digs, collecting her fourth double-double of the season.
Defensively, freshman libero/defensive specialist Madyson Chitty achieved 17 digs, while junior middle blocker Shealyn McNamara and freshman middle blocker Tina Grkovic had six and four blocks respectively.
On Saturday, Kojadinovic continued her good play with a career-high 19 kills and 13 digs, while Maksimova followed suit with 16 kills and 13 digs. Balyko scored a career-best 58 assists as well. Senior right-side hitter Kamila Cieslik contributed seven aces to the rally-era school record of 13, more than half of the team’s total.
The wins were the first time Rutgers has earned back-to-back Big Ten victories since it joined the conference. The Knights will look to end their season off on the same positive note, as they play their season finales on the road next week against Michigan State.
"This game was circled on the calendar as a must-win, and our approach on the court was to play with the same mental focus, same focus, same effort and determination as any other match we have played,” said head volleyball coach Caitlin Schweihofer. “I am really proud of the progress that this team has made this year. Although we have been battle-tested throughout the season, we continue to raise the standard for Rutgers volleyball."
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