Kinkela Rutgers

Kinkela will have a major role with Rutgers in her second year with the team (Photo: Rutgers)

Rutgers have sat at the bottom of the standings in the Big Ten women’s volleyball conference in the last two seasons, but there’s been some undeniable progress displayed by the Scarlet Knights over the period.

As the team prepares for its 2023 Big Ten season opener, on Wednesday, against Penn State, the program wants to continue moving forward. In the opening week of the season, the Scarlet Knights will also play Purdue on the road on Sunday, at 13:00 local time (17:00 UTC), in a match that will be streamed live on VBTV for subscribers around the world.

  • Watch the Big Ten Volleyball matches live on VBTV.

Rutgers’ transformation began with the arrival of head coach Caitlin Schweihofer, in January 2020. She couldn’t coach the team in official matches that season because of the COVID pandemic, but the Scarlet Knights displayed signs of improvement in 2021, achieving numerous program and Big Ten firsts, including first-ever wins over Indiana and Michigan State. Last year, Rutgers went on to win a pair of conference matches.

The Scarlet Knights have been very solid in preseason, winning eight of their ten non-conference matches, and have built some momentum ahead of the start of conference play.

“When I took this position, I had a very clear vision for the process that it was going to take in order to build this program into something that's sustainably successful,” Schweihofer commented. “We're headed into our fourth season, and I think we're right in line with where my expectations were. It's really important to make sure that those core values are established and set and that the team is really aligned with what the vision is for not only this year but the program moving forward over the next several years.”

One of the new faces of the team in 2021, Australian redshirt sophomore outside hitter Alissa Kinkela is following the team’s growth and has emerged as one of Rutgers’ main players during the early days of the 2023 season.

Kinkela, who has experience with the Australian U18 and U23 national teams, is the Scarlet Knights’ top scorer so far in the season, with 118 kills. She also registered her first career double-double, getting 13 kills and 11 digs against, and a career-high six aces, both against Princeton, in the team’s last non-conference match.

“I think it's one thing to see on court how far we've come, but behind the scenes, especially since I first started, it has improved dramatically behind the scenes,” she reflected. “I think I view my team as a house that we're building. You need to build a strong foundation or a structure in order to build a solid building or a house. I feel like we have paved over a lot of bumps, a lot of issues that have enabled us to achieve the goals that we are now seeking to achieve. There has been a lot of improvement behind the scenes which will eventually translate into our game.”