This post was originally going to be about how The Barn - the College Avenue Gym - isn’t a great venue for TV. And this is how that “original” post started out:
The latest Big Ten Volleyball release included this item:
The Big Ten volleyball television package features 36 contests, with 31 of those matches airing live on BTN, and highlighted by 10 doubleheaders. Five other matches will be carried live on ESPN network, including a Sept. 24 doubleheader on ESPN when Michigan State visits Minnesota (1 p.m. ET) and Michigan travels to Wisconsin (3 p.m. ET).
Now I’ll give you three guesses how many Rutgers Volleyball matches are broadcast from the College Avenue Gym are on that schedule....and the first two guesses don’t count.
If you said none, you’d be right.
Well, scratch that idea.
If you read On the Banks enough, you know I jump up and down promoting the Olympic sports and how we need to support them and we need to add more. Yeah, I’m that guy.
Now ask me how many volleyball matches I’ve been to at Rutgers, keeping in mind that I live a mere 8.6 miles away.
One. The one I attended the other night when they swept Siena, 3-0 (25-18, 25-20, 25-6). Sahbria McCletchie and Kamila Cieslik each had nine kills; I know nothing about the sport but by the third set, Rutgers had McCletchie in the corner and she was destroying the Saints. In that third set, RU had runs of 7-0 and 8-0. Karysa Swackenberg, the libero (no, I don’t know other than she wears a different color jersey) led the Knights with a season high 13 digs, and they didn’t need to sweep the floor because she was all over. Rutgers also led Siena in aces, 11-3.
Rutgers is on the BTN TV schedule twice, at Maryland and at Indiana. I may try to watch some. I also may try to get to a couple of more matches; they’re free, they’re exciting, and they’re fun. There was an announced crowd of 712 and that included more than a few athletes from other sports (I saw those women’s soccer jackets!) and the cheerleaders, there in an unofficial capacity. Although some did some dancing, there were two lifts that I noticed, and there is one young lady who does a back flip from a stand still; I cringed every time she did it as her head barely came up before she landed!
Rutgers is now 3-1 and goes to Seton Hall this weekend for its second tournament of the season. The Big Ten schedule starts at home on September 22. The Big Ten is a top tier volleyball conference. How “top tier”? From this week’s Big Ten press release:
Eight Big Ten programs earned spots in the latest AVCA coaches poll, with three teams ranked among the top 10: No. 2 Minnesota, No. 5 Penn State, No. 6 Wisconsin, No. 12 Nebraska, No. 19 Michigan, No. 20 Ohio State, No. 21 Purdue and No. 23 Michigan State.
Add in the fact that Penn State (six) and Nebraska (two) have won eight of the last 11 NCAA championships, and you get the picture pretty clearly.
How will the Knights do when they get into the Big Ten schedule? Hard to say. They haven’t done well in the three years RU has been in the conference, and that includes 0-20 last year. But Head Coach CJ Werneke is committed to turning it around. In the preseason, he said, “ “It starts with discipline. Our level of focus is going to be high, with an emphasis on commitment to our system and limiting unforced errors on offense. We gave away too many points in the past. To change that and turn it into positive momentum requires discipline.”
There are seven newcomers on the squad, five freshman and two transfers....and only three seniors. Junior Sahbria McCletchie (remember her from above?) is one of the transfers, from Virginia Commonwealth. And the frosh are from four different countries and include a decorated setter from Puerto Rico in Adriana Alejandro, a Tennessee State Volleyball Tournament MVP in opposite hitter Kamila Cieslik, a 6-foot-3 outside hitter from California in Claire Jackson, an international champion from Russia in outside hitter Yana Kamshilina, and a Serbian National Champion in opposite hitter Beka Kojadinovic.
Again from Wereneke: “The transfers came in here with a new perspective and made a positive impact right away. They are workhorses that want to put in the time and lead by example. They are buying into our system. The freshmen provide healthy competition at every position, and we haven’t had that here in the past. Everyone is getting pushed.”
A new group, a new attitude. Who knows what can happen. But I’ll probably be there a couple more times to see for myself.