The volleyball team entered the weekend with a lot to prove. Instead, Atlantic Ten Conference foes Dayton and Xavier proved that they could outplay the Owls.
Coach Bob Bertucci knew his team was going up against two of the strongest teams in the A-10, but said he expected more consistency from his players.
After being swept – 30-22, 30-26, 30-28 – in McGonigle Hall Friday against No. 15 Dayton (19-0 overall, 6-0 A-10), the Owls bounced back Saturday against Xavier – for the first two games at least.
Temple took a 2-0 lead into the locker room and momentum seemed to be high when they returned to the court, but the Owls quickly found themselves down by six in Game 3. They tried fighting back but failed, dropping the third game, 30-25. That pattern would continue.
The Owls (5-15 overall, 1-3 A-10) still had a 2-1 lead and should have been fine.
That was how Bertucci said he felt after the Owls went on to lose the next two games, giving the Musketeers (16-6, 6-0) a 3-2 victory.
“I’m getting sick and tired of tough losses like this,” Bertucci said after his club showed little fight in its final 15-6 loss. “Xavier is a tough team and we had our backs against the wall. We don’t respond real well when a team starts fighting back.
“We controlled the first two [games]. We had to continue what we were doing. But we’re not handling it well once the pressure is on us.”
Junior Patricia Vernon blamed the team’s struggle under pressure on lack of experience. One could expect a lack of experience from a team with 10 freshmen.
“The pressure starts to get to us, [and] we start to break down,” said Vernon, who hammered 18 kills against Xavier. “We have half unexperienced people and half experienced. But even for the experienced people, we have a lot of pressure. We have to carry half the team.”
One of the bright spots for the Owls during the loss to Xavier was the play of outside hitter Yun Yi Zhang.
The 6-foot-4 sophomore blasted a match-high 33 kills down on Xavier – 17 of which were in Temple’s wins.
It was apparent, though, that Zhang did not play as significant of a role in the last three games.
“[Xavier] knew the ball was always going to the outside,” Zhang said. “By then, I was a little tired. We don’t use the middle often and we should.”
“We were making too many mistakes in the third game, and we didn’t pass real well. I start to think too much after mistakes. Because of thinking too much, I start to miss more.”
“We have to be ready. We cannot stop pushing. We have to win three games, not only two.”
The Owls hope to recover against La Salle (9-13, 1-3) tonight at McGonigle Hall at 7 p.m. For every dig Temple records in the match, money will be donated to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation as part of the 2007 Dig for the Cure.
Temple is a perfect 34-0 against the Explorers, but Bertucci is not guaranteeing any victories.
“There is no history with this team we have now,” Bertucci said. “We have a new team, 10 [freshmen]. We’ve got a young team. We definitely have the talent to beat anyone in the league, but we still haven’t found ourselves as a team. Our team, as a group, needs to step it up.
“Teams have gotten a lot better,” he continued. “We have our work cut out for us just to qualify for the [A-10] tournament this year. This is the best La Salle team I’ve seen in 10 years. It’s going to be a good game.”
Jeff Appelblatt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.