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(Photo Credit: Michael Cummo/Rutgers Athletics)

Rutgers Volleyball Storms Preseason With a Purpose

Rutgers Volleyball approached the 2021-2022 preseason with a keen focus and desire to dominate a well anticipated, regular year in sport. After battling the restrictions of Covid-19, in 2020-2021, this team is taking advantage of their opportunity to compete without any looming limitations.

The team is beginning its year with a non-conference schedule consisting of four tournaments. Rutgers has attended two tournaments thus far, the FGCU invitational and the UConn Challenge.

Opening day at FGCU began with convincing success over USF. Rutgers was facing an opposing team that was bringing their best efforts, therefore competition was high right out of the gate. Rutgers rallied back for a nerve-wracking tie of 17-17 in the first set. The Scarlet Knights continued on to secure the newfound lead by obtaining the next three points.

Rutgers' momentum carried over to the second set, leaving the Bulls in an uncomfortable position that sent them spiraling into a deficit in which was unrecoverable. The Scarlet Knights finished business with an impressive victory of 3-0. Rutgers was relentless in their pursuit to capture their first season-opening win since 2013; this evident determination paid off.

Rutgers introduced many newcomers throughout the first victory, consisting of Samantha Graver, Jaden Rice, Megan Vernon, Rachel Tam, Alissa Kinkela, and Cara Newell. While these brilliant additions tapped into their debut, four Scarlet Knights, seniors Inna Balyko and Anastasiia Maksimova, along with sophomores Madyson Chitty and Kristina Grkovic shook this game’s stats with an outstanding combination of digs, kills, blocks, and assists, projecting excitable energy for the long-anticipated fans. Rutgers is fueled for the many matches to come.

Next, Rutgers played the hosts of the invitational, FGCU, and fell at a defeat of 0-3. The Eagles came out strong and hungry to dominate on their own turf with overwhelming play, offensively and defensively. The Scarlet Knights did not submit to their opponents in the first set; they fought for a tie that consistently slipped their grasp following multiple strategic time-outs called in favor of FGCU.

The Eagles continued into the second set with an eager sense of speed, edging the Scarlet Knights out of their attack mode from start to finish. The third set approached and Rutgers was not going down without a fight; this was the closest set of the match, with an unfortunate loss of 21-25 after Shealyn McNamara continued scrapping to pull ahead with a kill, inviting a score of 21-19 and a potential lead.

After the disappointing results against FGCU, Head Coach, Caitlin Schweihofer makes a statement in hopes for a new day and better synergy. "Right now preseason is about improving our team so hopefully we can regroup for tomorrow", she says. 

Lastly, the Scarlet Knights were set to take on UMBC and eager to show up ready to earn a win before they hit the road to return to campus in New Brunswick. The team was able to muster up all the grit that they had to come back from struggling behind at 0-2. With this deficit, Rutgers was still able to declare themselves the victors after they competed tremendously for a scoring run of 11-0. The match score concluded in the Scarlet Knight's favor as a thrilling 3-2.

Starting the preseason with the same lineup as last gave the team a sense of comfort due to their knowledge of prior victories, but moving forward, Head Coach, Caitlin Schweihofer is looking to diversify the order and play to ensure the greatest opportunity for the team’s future success. Coming off of a weekend full of adversity, Schweihofer seems to look forward to the potential of her team as the season progresses. With this being Coach's second season with the Rutgers Women's Volleyball team, it is apparent she will be making important and thorough decisions in order for the Scarlet Knights to continue down the mesmerizing path of prosperity.

Prepared as ever, Rutgers comes into the UConn Challenge with three opponents yearning for the same thing: wins. The teams to beat were CCSU, Lafeyette, and UConn to set themselves up for the best start they have had in years. The Scarlet Knights prevailed, each and every time, winning the title and watching their record shift to 5-1. Three incredible athletes from the Rutgers squad were named to the All-Tournament Team after their outstanding performances: Beka Kojadinovic, Inna Balyko, and Shealyn McNamara. Rutgers' Senior, Beka Kojadinovic demonstrated her contributions well enough to also walk away from this event as the MVP.

Coming Soon For Rutgers Volleyball

Up next, Rutgers will be hosting the "Rutgers 9/11 Memorial Tournament Presented By Bridgewater Marriott" this weekend. The competitors traveling to New Brunswick consist of NJIT, NC State, and Brown. The tournament will take place at the RAC.

You can watch and support your Scarlet Knights by tuning into the streaming on the Big Ten Network for the matchup of Rutgers vs NC State on Friday, September 10 at 6:30 PM (Eastern).

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