PISCATAWAY, N.J. (Sept. 20, 2012) – After winning 12 straight matches, the Rutgers volleyball team will begin BIG EAST competition at home. The Scarlet Knights host South Florida on Sept. 22 at 2 p.m. and Pittsburgh on Sept. 23 at 2 p.m. Both matches will be held in College Ave. Gym, with the South Florida contest scheduled to be broadcast live on RVision, presented by AT&T on ScarletKnights.com.
This marks the first time since the 2009 season that Rutgers opens BIG EAST play at home. The Scarlet Knights hold a 14-1 record and have not dropped a match since Aug. 25 at Miami.
“It’s great playing at home in front of fans that support us,” said head coach CJ Werneke. “It’s just a little more energy when you’re at home. We’re off to a great start, but now as we start BIG EAST play we want to keep going in the right direction.”
The Bulls are 8-5 this season and 1-1 on the on the road. The squad started the year 2-5, but has won six-straight, including a sweep at its home tournament beating James Madison, Bethune Cookman and FIU. Offensively, South Florida is led by Valerie El Houssine who has notched 142 kills, good for 2.96 per set. Wylie Devlin has commanded the attack with 6.43 assists per set, while Claudia Cabrera has secured the defense with 217 digs at 4.62 per set. The BIG EAST opponent is led by first-year head coach Courtney Draper. The Scarlet Knights hold a 5-5 all-time record against South Florida. Last season, Rutgers dropped the match to the Bulls in straight sets of 19-25, 10-25 and 22-25.
The Panthers have put together a 9-5 record so far and hold a 2-3 mark on the road. Pitt has lost three of its last four matches, but won seven in a row prior to that. The team’s most recent match was a loss to Duquesne on Sept. 18. Offensively, the Panthers are led by Jasmine Dittrich (97 kills) and Jessica Wynn (2.26 kills per set). Lindsey Zitzke has provided the helpers, tallying 461 assists at 10.02 per set. Margy Acton holds down the defensive end with 5.26 digs per set. Pitt is led by fifth-year head coach Toby Rens and Rutgers is 6-26 all-time against the Panthers. Last season, the Scarlet Knights lost to the Panthers in three sets on the road by scores of 14-25, 16-25 and 9-25.
Last time out, Rutgers won all three of its matches at the Penn Invitational, and did it in a variety of fashions. The squad started off by taking down Radford in three sets (25-22, 25-21, 25-23) on Sept. 14. On Sept. 15, the Scarlet Knights opened with a five-set victory over George Mason (25-23, 18-25, 18-25, 25-22, 15-13) before beating host Penn in four sets (22-25, 28-26, 25-19, 25-16). The team tallied a season-high 113 digs against the Quakers and picked up its third tournament win of the season after winning the Rutgers Invitational and the Spartan Classic earlier this year.
Freshman Sarah Schmid (Highlands Ranch, Colo.) ranked 23rd in the NCAA through Sept. 16 with a .409 hitting percentage. Senior setter Stephanie Zielinski (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) was in 18th place with 11.53 assists per set. Zielinski is second in the BIG EAST with 11.53 assists per set. Schmid is first in the league with a .409 hitting percentage. Overall, Rutgers is in second in kills (14.05/s), assists (12.02/s) and digs (16.95/s).
Two Scarlet Knights have recorded double-doubles this season. Zielinski has notched 10, with three at the Penn Invitational, including 57 assists and 28 digs against Penn. Zielinski has had a double-double in her last six matches. Freshman Alex Lassa (Eagle, Colo.) has totaled five, including each of her last four matches. She had 14 kills and 18 digs at Penn.
The first 100 fans to the South Florida match will receive a free “Blackout” t-shirt. The contest with Pitt will be Camper Appreciation Day, with all campers wearing their t-shirts and the first 50 receiving a free volleyball. The team will have an autograph signing for campers on the court after the match.
Next, Rutgers hits the road for BIG EAST matchups with Villanova on Sept. 28 at 7 p.m. and Georgetown on Sept. 30 at 2 p.m.
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