SMITHFIELD, R.I. – The Bryant University volleyball team battled Big Ten-built Rutgers for three sets but could not come up with the victory, dropping the final match of the 2016 Hampton Inn-vitational to the Scarlet Knights in straight sets Saturday evening.
Senior captain Vika Katzen (Kfar Saba, Israel) posted her second-straight double-double with team highs in assists (17) and digs (13), while junior Kiley Robbins (Garland, Texas) led the offense with seven kills. All-tournament team selection Ally Lunsford (Minneola, Fla.) and sophomore middle Grace Richmeyer (DeSoto, Mo.) each added six kills of their own, with the former chipping in a trio of blocks. Sophomore setter Kirstyn Sperry (Phoenix, Ariz.) capped off her stellar weekend with 10 assists and two stuffs.
Meme Fletcher drove the Scarlet Knights (3-1) with 13 kills and nine digs, while tournament MVP Cole Trimble recorded nine kills and a .533 attack percentage. All-tournament team pick Karysa Swackenberg grabbed up a match-high 14 digs while Megan Sharkey and Talia Holze combined for 35 of the team's 37 assists (20 and 15, respectively). Lauren Cloyd (8 kills) and Jasmine Stackhouse (4 kills) excelled at the net, each picking up seven block assists to lead the charge as Rutgers outblocked Bryant, 9-4.
The Bulldogs (2-2) started out strong, taking an 8-4 advantage in the first frame, but the Scarlet Knights went on a 9-4 run to take over the lead, 13-12. The sides would stay within two points of each other until kills by Robbins and senior captain Sara DePouw (Oconto, Wis.) knotted the margin at 21-21. But an ace, two kills by Cloyd and a Bulldog mistake closed out the set for a 25-21 Rutgers victory.
In the second, Rutgers turned it on early, racing out to an 11-1 lead before Margot Ruffieux (Cary, N.C.) got the Black and Gold back on the board. The Scarlet Knights would serve up six aces in the set, including back-to-back serves from Fletcher to go up 15-3. Rutgers hitters would take it to the Bulldog defense and limited the home side to just a .100 attack percentage. Lunsford would get the Bulldogs into double digits with a powerful kill at 19-10, but the Black and Gold could never make up ground en route to the 25-12 final.
Cloyd and Stackhouse would register three-straight blocks in the early goings of the third for a 4-1 Rutgers advantage, but the Bulldogs wouldn't let the Scarlet Knights run away again, tying the set at 6-6 on a Lunsford ace. A sneaky attack from Katzen would give the Bulldogs a 12-10 edge, and Sperry and Lunsford would add to it with a big block seconds later.
Mikaela Matthews tied up the frame at 17-17 when the Bulldogs couldn't handle a Fletcher service, and the Scarlet Knights would take the lead off a Bryant error on the next rally. The teams would trade leads into the final points of the frame, with the Bulldogs out in front as late as 22-21, but Rutgers would score three of the final four points for the 25-23 victory and 3-0 sweep.
The Bulldogs return to the court August 31 when they take on Quinnipiac in Hamden, Conn., at 7:00 p.m.