The 2004 Scarlet Knights will be a highly experienced and competitive team with a roster that boast five seniors, two juniors, four sophomores and only one true freshman. Despite the loss of four-time all-BIG EAST honoree Shayla Bush, RU will be led by an experienced core of players, as four of the five returning starters are seniors.
Dawn Christjaener and Casey Castillo will serve as a source of veteran leadership for the Scarlet Knights in 2004. Castillo, a redshirt senior, is making her return to action after missing the 2003 season due to an injury. Also helping to bolster this group of senior starters are Abbey Martin, Addie Thiry and Stephanie Travioli. In addition, RU will look to juniors Ashleigh Young and Courtney Stout to continue to provide solid contributions on the court.
Abbey Martin will look to duplicate the remarkable season she had in 2003. In just her first season "On the Banks", Martin led the team in assists (1,154) and assists per game (11.10). She tallied double-digit assists in 27 of 28 matches last season and currently holds fifth place on the all-time career list for assists.
Also seeing action at the setter position is sophomore University ofDelaware transfer Jocelyn Greenwald. Greenwald ranked second for the Blue Hens in assists (321) and assists per game (5.18) last year. In 2002, she was named The Record's New Jersey Volleyball Player of the Year.
Providing depth to the position this season will be Tamarie Macon. Named
the team's Most Improved Player in 2003, Macon gained valuable experience
freshman, appearing in eight matches for the Scarlet Knights and recording
3.85 assists per game to rank second on the team.
There will be some new faces at the right side position for the Scarlet Knights, as three players will make the switch this season. Senior Stephanie Travioli, the lone returning player at the right side position, was tied for third on the team with 20 service aces and ranked fourth in kills per game (1.73) and total blocks (53) last year. Joining her will be Macon, redshirt senior Casey Castillo and sophomore Lora Yankauskas.
The middle hitters will be led by senior Addie Thiry and junior Ashleigh Young. Both were dominant forces at that position last season. As the recipient of the team's 2003 Best Defensive Player Award, Young led the Scarlet Knights in total blocks with 133 (22 solo, 111 assists) and blocks per game (1.27). Young also showed her versatility as she ranked third on the team in kills (230) and kills per game (2.19). Thiry will help to anchor the middle hitter position, as last season marked the second consecutive year that she ranked second on the team in total blocks with 104 (20 solo, 84 assists) and blocks per game (1.02).
Adding depth will be freshman Amanda Meyer. The Scarlet Knights' sole incoming freshman was ranked as a top 250 recruit by prepvolleyball.com. As a member of the Naperville North High School volleyball team, Meyer led her squad to four consecutive Dupage Valley Conference titles.
Senior Dawn Christjaener had a standout season in 2003 and she will look to do the same in 2004. Christjaener ranked second on the team in kills (351), kills per game (3.41), and digs (256). Last season she twice recorded a team-high 24 digs (Oregon 9/5, Seton Hall 10/4), and she begins the year sixth on the all-time career digs list with 881.
Joining her is junior Courtney Stout, who is coming off a season in which she split time as the libero. Stout appeared in all 28 matches for the Scarlet Knights and ranked third on the team with 191 digs. Yankauskas will round out an already talented group of outside hitters. She played in 20 matches last season and recorded double-digit kills on three separate occasions.
Also making her return to the outside hitter position is Castillo. She missed the entire 2003 season due to injury, but she is now healthy and expects to have a major impact on the program in 2004.
The libero duties will be handled by sophomore Justine Park. Park saw action in 18 matches for the Scarlet Knights last season, and she recorded a service ace in three consecutive matches against St. Peter’s (9/13), Furman (9/19) and FAMU (9/20). Backing up Park will be Stout, who did see action last season as the team’s libero.
The Rutgers 2004 schedule is once again highly competitive as RU will play its first 13 matches on the road. Rutgers will compete in five tournaments, including the BIG EAST Challenge, which the Scarlet Knights will host on Oct. 1-2.
RU begins its season with the Penn State Invitational on Sept. 3-4. The Scarlet Knights will open the tournament against 2003 NCAA Tournament Quarterfinalist Penn State, followed by matches against Brigham Young and Quinnipiac on day two. Next up will be the Radisson Invitational on Sept. 10-11. In addition to tournament host Western Michigan, RU will take on Marquette and first-time opponent Maine.
The Scarlet Knights will resume tournament play when they take on Rhode Island, Harvard and New Hampshire at the URI Invitational on Sept. 17-18. This tournament marks the first time RU will face Rhode Island since leaving the Atlantic-10 and joining the BIG EAST in 1995. The Scarlet Knights will then head to Fairfax, VA, to participate in the Patriot Invitational. Rutgers will take on Stony Brook on Sept. 24 and close out the tournament with matches against Towson and 2003 CAA champion George Mason on Sept. 25. The Scarlet Knights will make one final stop at Temple before returning home to host the BIG EAST Challenge. RU is set to take on the 2003 Atlantic-10 Conference champion Owls on Sept. 28.
The Scarlet Knights will host the BIG EAST Challenge on Oct. 1-2. Connecticut and Villanova will kick off the two-day event, followed by Rutgers and Boston College. The consolation and championship rounds will take place on the following day of competition. Although the participating teams are BIG EAST members, the results of these contests will not count toward the individual teams’ BIG EAST regular-season records.
BIG EAST Conference play begins for the Scarlet Knights with a three-match home stand against Notre Dame on Oct. 9, Syracuse on Oct. 10 and Seton Hall on Oct. 15. Rutgers will break from its BIG EAST schedule and travel to Manhattan College to take on the Jaspers on Oct. 17, before finishing the season with seven BIG EAST opponents. Rutgers will be on the road for three consecutive BIG EAST contests, first taking on Boston College on Oct. 22, followed by Connecticut on Oct. 24 and St. John's on Oct. 29. The Scarlet Knights return home to face 2003 BIG EAST Conference champion Pittsburgh on Nov. 5, followed by a match against West Virginia on Nov. 7. RU will conclude the regular season with two road matches against Georgetown on Nov. 12 and Villanova on Nov. 14. The BIG EAST Championship will be held on Nov. 20-21 at the Fitzgerald Field House on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh.