PISCATAWAY, N.J. (Nov. 19, 2012) – The Rutgers volleyball program had its best season in recent history, tallying a record of 18-12 (4-11 BIG EAST). The season marked the fourth-straight year that head coach CJ Werneke has led the Scarlet Knights to double-digit wins in a season. Multiple players left their mark on the program’s record books, as well.
The 18 wins for the Scarlet Knights marked the most since the 2000 squad recorded 23, while the four conference victories were the most since the 2005 team totaled six. Rutgers also notched its first winning season since the 2004 team went 16-10.
The team picked up two conference road wins, one over Georgetown (Sept. 30) and one over St. John’s (Oct. 28), marking the most since the 2005 Scarlet Knights also collected two. The win over the Hoyas was the first conference road win since Rutgers downed South Florida on Oct. 31, 2010.
The Scarlet Knights received strong play and leadership from its seniors, while the freshmen and newcomers came in an made in impact early. Eight newcomers started matches for the team, including two transfers earning starts. Overall, Rutgers finished third in digs (16.71/s), fourth in service aces (1.30/s), fifth in digs (13.41/s) and fifth in assists (12.55/s) in the BIG EAST.
Senior Stephanie Zielinski (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) recorded 21 double-doubles in 2012, tallying 50 or more helpers 12 times. Zielinski finished the campaign with 1,342 assists and 4,255 for her career, both second on Rutgers’ all-time lists. She moved into eighth on the single-season digs list with 351 this season and finished the year fifth in the program’s history with 1,129 for her career. Her 11.28 assists per set ranked second in the conference. She also earned BIG EAST Player of the Week honors (Sept. 17) and was named to the conference’s Weekly Honor Roll three times (Oct. 22, Oct. 15 and Sept. 3). The setter was also named the Rutgers Invitational MVP.
Classmate Alex Jones (Chesapeake, Va.) capped her career in 10th place on the career kills list, compiling 917 in four seasons. The senior was named the Spartan Classic MVP, and she earned spots on the Rutgers Invitational and Penn Invitational All-Tournament Teams.
Rookie Sarah Schmid (Highlands Ranch, Colo.) led the team with 379 kills and 89 blocks, while finishing her first season third on the single-season hitting percentage list with a mark of .355, the third-best mark in the BIG EAST. Schmid was named BIG EAST Freshman of the Week on Sept. 17, while also earning a Weekly Honor Roll spot on Sept. 10. She was named the Penn Invitational MVP and earned spots on the Hurricane Invitational and Spartan Classic All-Tournament Teams.
Fellow freshman Alex Lassa (Eagle, Colo.) led the team with 3.43 kills per set (sixth in the league), while earning BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll recognition (Aug. 27) and a spot on the Hurricane Invitational All-Tournament team. She finished the season with 11 double-doubles. Defensively, junior Tracy Wright (Fair Lawn, N.J.) was the squad’s digs leader, coming up with 356 in an injury-shortened season, second on Rutgers’ single-season list. She averaged 4.45 digs per set, ninth in the BIG EAST.
Rutgers jumped out to a 14-1 start to the season, the best start in program history. During that span, the Scarlet Knights won 12 straight contests, the longest streak since the 1983 team had 12. With a 4-11 conference record, Rutgers finished tied for 12th in the BIG EAST.
The Scarlet Knights opened in Miami, Fla., at the Hurricane Invitational. There, the season commenced with a victory over Samford (Aug. 24), who had been an NCAA Tournament team the previous season. In the win streak, Rutgers notched all seven of its sweeps in a span of nine games. The first sweeps came against Iona and New Hampshire at the Rutgers Invitational on Aug. 31 and the last came on Sept. 14 against Radford.
Not only did the Scarlet Knights play well in three set matches, but the squad picked up victories in all five of its five-set matches during non-conference play. Through the whole season, Rutgers won seven of 10 overall. In that mix was a match against Wofford (Aug. 24) where Rutgers trailed 2-0. Despite falling behind, the Scarlet Knights rallied for the victory. It marked the first time that the team came back from a two-set deficit to win since beating Seton Hall on Oct. 15, 2010.
In non-conference play, Rutgers won three of its four tournaments, including the Rutgers Invitational (Aug. 31-Sept. 1), the Spartan Classic (Sept. 7-8) and the Crowne Plaza Philadelphia West Penn Invitational (Sept. 14-15).
The Scarlet Knights started BIG EAST play with three straight losses, but rebounded with a home victory over Syracuse in four sets (Oct. 12).The win marked the first time Rutgers beat the Orange since Oct. 10, 2003. It also gave the team 16 victories, guaranteeing it would have a winning season for the first time since 2004. Following that victory, Rutgers continued to show improvement taking Marquette, the second-best team in the conference, to five sets before dropping the match.
The squad picked up back-to-back five-set victories at St. John’s (Oct. 28) and versus DePaul (Nov. 3). Notre Dame came next (Nov. 4), and the Scarlet Knights were able to take the opening set from the Irish. It was the first time Rutgers took a game from Notre Dame since Oct. 4, 1998 and was just the second time overall.
Rutgers made many strides in 2012 and accumulated a wealth of experience for the 2013 season. The program is on the rise and has laid the foundation for seasons to come.
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