PISCATAWAY, NJ – Rutgers volleyball returned home within RAC friendly limits to carry Illinois, the top team receiving votes in this week’s AVCA poll, to five sets.
The Scarlet Knights won the first inning 27-25 for not only the first victory over the Fighting Illini in the Big Ten game, but the first against Illinois since 1981.
The visitors advanced with a 25-20 second set victory and dominated the third set 25-11, but Rutgers hit back 25-22 to force the fifth and decisive stanza where they were edged 15-12.
- Fifth year seniors Beka Kojadinovic and Kamila Cieslik won doubles-doubles for the second game in a row. Cieslik led with a season-high 17 kills and 10 digs, while Kojadinovic had 11 kills and 24 digs, a career-high.
- Senior Inna Balyko also won a double-double, his seventh of the year at the team lead, leading the attack with 41 assists as well as 14 digs and six blocks at the team lead.
- Senior Anastasia Maksimova added double digit kills for attack with 10.
- Second year Madyson Chitty assisted the defense at 19 digs, while a graduate student Megan Vernon added five refusals.
- Series 1 (27-25) | Fourteen draws and 11 lead changes later, the Scarlet Knights emerged with a decisive victory over Illinois. Kamila Cieslik propelled Rutgers to victory behind seven kills, while Balyko assisted 13 of RU’s 17 successful swings as well as eight digs. The score was tied at 23-23 when a Beka Kojadinovic attack put RU to the point of match. As Illinois fought for their own set point by capitalizing on a Scarlet Knight serve error and net defense, Rutgers turned the story around by taking the next three points. Kojadinovic started the comeback, followed by Balyko and McNamara teaming up for a reject and Cieslik moving away for his seventh frame kill for set point.
- Series 2 (20-25) | The second set turned out to be a close battle and the Fighting Illini tied the game at 1-1. The score was tied five times earlier when a victory for Kennedy Collins of Illinois put his team permanently at 9-8. The Fighting Illini were leading up to four in the frame, with Rutgers managing to close the lead to two behind. A Kojadinovic swing saw the Scarlet Knights trailing 21-19 with Illinois closing the set ahead of RU, 4-1.
- Series 3 (11-25) | Illinois led from start to finish and took a 16-2 lead. The Fighting Illini reached a best game of .379 while Rutgers was limited to just .071.
- Series 4 (25-22) | The next set was a completely different performance for the Scarlet Knights who tied the game at 2-2. Back to back stitches Tina Grkovic found Rutgers and Illinois tied at 13-13 and started an 8-1 Scarlet Knight run. RU never dragged on after the break-up.
- Series 5 (12-15) | The Scarlet Knights came close to claiming the B1G victory as the two teams battled seven ties. Kojadinovic helped tie the score at 8-8 as the Fighting Illini scored four straight points to stay ahead definitively.
“I felt like the team was very calm going into this game. Some of the games that we have been preparing in the last few weeks we were a little anxious and we were coming home after being on the road for four right away. I think there was a sense of relief and we arrived prepared. It’s not about wins or losses for me, it’s about going out and trying to play a volleyball style. that we’re all proud of and I think that’s what we did tonight.
In fact, I compared him to a marathon runner. We’re playing as hard as we can, even though the last set didn’t go perfectly for us. Illinois have a very good team and they are a very seasoned team. I know a marathon runner when he does his last mile, he’s probably exhausted, but that’s when he finds that little bit of adrenaline that keeps him going. Do we have this in us? Can we find some adrenaline that can get
we in this fifth set since we already have one to our credit?
Obviously, there is a sense of disappointment at the loss. You never want to leave a gym with a loss, but they accomplished something that they haven’t accomplished in a very long time and something that this group of upper class students never accomplished. I think we feel like we’re playing at a higher level than the last time we played and we’re very comfortable in our home gym. We have a whole day to prepare for Maryland, so it’s not a back-to-back. We have a whole Saturday to take in to watch the film and prepare properly. “- Head Coach Caitlin Schweihofer
- The Rutgers homestand continues his final game at RAC before wrapping up the rest of his home program at College Ave Gym by hosting Maryland on Sunday at 1 p.m.
- Fans can show off their Halloween costume at the marketing table for a chance to win a Rutgers loot bag including four (4) tickets to the Rutgers-Maryland football game.
- Admission to all Rutgers volleyball games is free.
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