Iowa volleyball loses in five sets against Rutgers

Iowa dropped the second match of its two-day series against Rutgers in five sets.


Jerod Ringwald

Iowa Setter Bailey Ortega comes off the court trailing late in the final set during a women’s volleyball match between Iowa and Rutgers at Xtream Arena on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. The Scarlet Knights defeated the Hawkeyes 3 sets to 2.

Will Fineman, Sports Reporter

Freshmen setter Bailey Ortega has tallied over 25 assists in two matches this season. Unfortunately for Ortega, both of those matches were five-set losses for the Iowa volleyball team. 

Ortega’s career-high 34 assists could not secure the victory for Iowa as it split its two-game series with Rutgers and lost, 3-2, on Saturday.

“It sucks that it keeps having to happen on times like this,” Ortega said. “As great as it is that I was able to have a career night, it really just doesn’t turn around from the fact that we did lose in five.” 

Ortega also set a career-high in digs with 12. 

Her fellow freshman Audrey Black slated a career-high 15 kills against the Scarlet Knights on Saturday.

“[Black] is one of those players that always wants the ball no matter what happens,” Ortega said. “We have a great friendship, but one of the best parts of our friendship is that we are always able to hold each other accountable.”

The Hawkeyes continued their momentum from Friday into the first set holding Rutgers to only 13 points — their lowest set point total of the weekend. 

The second set was a completely different story.

Rutgers outscored Iowa, 10-3, to start the set and never looked back with outside hitter Anastasiia Maksimova tallying five kills in that set alone. The Hawkeyes lost the second set, 25-17, and Maksimova would go on to tie her career-high in kills with 17. 

“We knew Rutgers’ defense was going to make adjustments, and they started getting more touches on some of our attacks,” Iowa head coach Vicki Brown said. 

RELATED: Career-highs power Iowa volleyball past Rutgers

Sets three through five became the Courtney Buzzerio show.

Iowa dropped a nail biter of a third set, 26-24, but showed grit in the fourth to beat Rutgers, 25-20, and force a fifth set. Buzzerio had 10 kills and a .455 hitting percentage in those two sets and finished with a .381 hitting percentage and 19 kills — matching her career-high.

“When I get going, I expect the ball,” Buzzerio said. “Being in multiple fifth sets like this and just being older, I want the ball, and I believe that I can put the ball down, and Bailey can feel that.”

Any momentum Iowa had going into the fifth set was quickly killed by a 3-0 run from Rutgers to start the set. 

Rutgers led the entirety of the fifth set, but Iowa managed to bring it back within one late. Maksimova swiftly ended Iowa’s hope, though, with a kill and a block on junior Hannah Clayton to end the match. 

“It’s definitely not the best feeling,” Ortega said. “Going into this next week with Northwestern coming up I think that we can learn from this.”

Career-highs from Edina Schmidt, Joslyn Boyer, Maddie Slagle, and Blythe Rients powered the Hawkeyes past Rutgers on Friday.

Iowa won in four sets, 25-19, 25-17, 23-25, 25-17, and grabbed its second win of the season and second win at home. 

Iowa shut down the focal point of Rutgers’ offense — senior hitters Beka Kojadinovic and Kamilia Cieslik — holding them to a combined .116 hitting percentage on the weekend.

Schmidt set career highs in kills (21), attack attempts (43), and hitting percentage (43) in Friday’s match.

Boyer set a career-high in assists with seven, Slagle had a career-high three service aces, and Rients had a career-high six digs.  

“We are definitely finding our rhythm and can see it in longer spurts of the set,” Brown said. “But we are still having those moments where some players are checking out a couple of points here and there throughout the rally.”

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