PISCATAWAY, N.J. (Oct. 4, 2012) – The Rutgers volleyball team is scheduled to continue conference play on the road with two matches this weekend against some of the top competition in the BIG EAST. The Scarlet Knights (15-4, 1-3 BIG EAST) first travel to Cincinnati, Ohio, for a contest with the Bearcats on Friday, Oct. 5 at 3 p.m. before traveling to Louisville, Ky., to take on the Cardinals on Sunday, Oct. 7 at noon. Cincinnati is the defending BIG EAST Volleyball Championship title winner, while Louisville took the regular season crown in 2011.
“Traditionally, both of those teams are powerhouses in the BIG EAST,” said head coach CJ Werneke. “They are always tough environments to play in, they get good crowds and they’re talented. We feel we’re going to have a great opportunity as long as we can execute behind the service line and an offensive and defensive game plan. I’m looking forward to seeing what we do.”
The Bearcats won the 2011 BIG EAST Volleyball Championship. Cincinnati (4-13, 2-2) dropped its last two matches to Xavier (3-2) and to South Florida (3-2). The squad picked up conference wins over Pittsburgh (3-0) and DePaul (3-1). Overall, Jordanne Scott leads the offensive charge, averaging 4.43 kills per set, good for second in the conference. The offense runs through setter Rachel Rohlfs, who averages a conference-best 11.53 assists per set. Defensively, the Bearcats are led by Emily Macintyre, who leads the league with 6.47 digs per set in BIG EAST play. In conference contests, Cincinnati tops the league with 14.47 kills per set and is second with 13.35 assists per set. First-year head coach Molly Alvey is at the helm of the Bearcats.
Cincinnati leads the all-time series 11-2 in a matchup that dates back to 1979. The Bearcats have won the last nine meetings between the teams, with the Scarlet Knights picking up their last victory on Sept. 3, 1983 in three sets. Last season, Rutgers fell to the Bearcats in four sets, managing to pick up an opening set win in the contest on Oct. 7.
The Cardinals (14-2, 3-1) were the regular season BIG EAST champions last season and currently rank 17th in the AVCA Coaches Top 25 poll. Senior outside hitter Lola Arslanbekova is the reigning BIG EAST Player of the Year. The Cardinals rank first in the conference in kills (13.98/s) and assists (13.02/s), while sitting in second in hitting percentage (.256). The Cardinals only losses of the campaign came against top-ranked Penn State (3-0) and conference-foe Notre Dame (3-2). Outside of the BIG EAST, the squad had two common opponents with Rutgers, Miami and Samford. Louisville swept the Hurricanes, who defeated the Scarlet Knights, and earned a victory over Samford, who Rutgers also downed.
Offensively, the squad is led by Arslanbekova, who has tallied 284 kills and ranks first in the conference and sixth in Division I with 4.81 per set. Tanya Lukyanenko leads the BIG EAST in hitting percentage at .399, while teammate Gwen Rucker tops the league with 1.27 blocks per set. Defensively, Caitlin Welch has a team-high 306 digs at 5.19 per set. Louisville is led by second-year head coach Anna Kordes.
Rutgers has never defeated Louisville, holding an 0-8 record. The teams first met in 1999 in a match that went four sets. Last season, the Scarlet Knights fell to the Cardinals in three sets on Oct. 9.
Last time out, the Scarlet Knights picked up their first BIG EAST win of the season, downing Georgetown in four sets in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 30. The Scarlet Knights claimed the victory with set scores of 25-23, 25-16, 18-25 and 26-24. It was the first BIG EAST road win for Rutgers since downing South Florida in five sets on Oct. 31, 2010. The Scarlet Knights are now 26-16 all-time against Georgetown, the most wins the school has over any team in its history. On Friday, Sept. 28, The Rutgers volleyball team fell at Villanova in four sets, posting set scores of 16-25, 21-25, 25-23 and 21-25 in Villanova, Pa.
The team is now 5-2 on the road this season and 11-2 including neutral site matches, compared to a team that was 0-11 on the road last season and 3-4 in neutral site matches.
Senior setter Stephanie Zielinski (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) ranks 19th in the NCAA through Sept. 30 with 11.47 assists per set. Freshman Sarah Schmid (Highlands Ranch, Colo.) ranks 39th with a .384 hitting percentage.
Junior Tracy Wright (Fair Lawn, N.J.) has 307 digs this season, 27 away from moving into 10th place on the Rutgers single-season list. Zielinski is closing in on 1,000 assists this season, currently at 849.
The Scarlet Knights return home for “Alumni Weekend,” starting with Syracuse on Oct. 12 at 6 p.m. in College Ave. Gym. The squad will then take on Marquette on Oct. 14 at 2 p.m. in its “Dig Pink” match to raise awareness and help in the fight against breast cancer.
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